Ryan Lochte on U.S. Open: ‘Probably my worst meet ever’

Ryan Lochte
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Ryan Lochte is mad, and that’s rare.

The 12-time Olympic medalist known for his goofy smile and laid-back attitude was ticked off about his performances in the pool at the U.S. Open, the first major meet in America since the coronavirus pandemic shut down sports in mid-March (broadcast schedule here).

Lochte finished third in the 200m individual medley with a time 2:01.05 on Friday — well behind winner Chase Kalisz in 1:59.72. He was 26th in the 200m freestyle and 51st in the 100m backstroke. Lochte swam the 200m back on Saturday and dropped the 100m free. Times from all nine meet sites were combined to determine overall placement.

“This is probably going to go down as my worst meet that I’ve ever had,” he said by phone from Sarasota, Florida. “I do not like swimming this bad. When I get back (home), I’m going to start turning it up again.”

At 36, Lochte is taking aim at making a fifth U.S. Olympic team. He’s easily the oldest swimmer on deck, surrounded by youngsters who he jokes were in diapers when he won his first gold medal at the 2004 Athens Games.

Time is not on his side. Lochte figures he’s competed in just seven meets since 2016. He only resumed training about five weeks ago, his plans disrupted in part by closures and restrictions put in place because of the coronavirus. Future competitions are up in the air, depending on the pandemic. The U.S. Olympic Trials are next June, about a month before the rescheduled Tokyo Games.

“I need to be racing at least once a month with really good competitors,” he said. “I don’t want to lose that confidence.”

Lochte is eager to replace the debacle that was the 2016 Rio Olympics with better memories before calling it quits. He grabbed international headlines after claiming he and three teammates were robbed by armed men with police badges in Rio. Brazilian authorities denied Lochte’s version of events. Eventually, he apologized for lying about the incident that cost him sponsors and a 10-month suspension.

In 2018, he was suspended for 14 months after posting a photo of himself receiving a vitamin injection at a dosage over the allowable limit. The repeated hits to his good-guy image were incalculable.

“I feel like inside I want to prove everyone wrong,” he said. “I want to do it for myself. I guess this year is way more important than any I’ve ever had.”

Lochte has been going hard in practice, logging between 7,000-8,000 yards a day — more than he did ahead of the 2012 London Games.

“I don’t know if I’m mentally tired. I know I’m physically tired,” he said. “I love getting on those blocks and racing again.”

Dara Torres was the first U.S. swimmer to compete in five Olympics, including two different appearances eight years apart. She was 41 in 2008 when she won silver medals in all three of her events in Beijing. Torres’ daughter was 2 years old at the time of her mother’s last games.

Lochte’s family has expanded, too, since 2016, with wife Kayla, 3-year-old son Caiden and 1-year-old daughter Liv.

“It used to be me going off to the bars,” he said. “Now it’s me going home and chasing kids around and changing diapers, but I love it.”

Lochte is back with Gregg Troy, his old college coach at Florida who guided him throughout his long rivalry with Michael Phelps. Troy retired from leading the Gators two years ago, although he has remained in Gainesville, where Lochte and his wife are in the process of buying a house.

Lochte said he’s still in touch with Phelps, who retired after Rio and has three boys of his own now.

“He’s always good for giving me advice,” Lochte said.

Lochte looks around the pool deck at his young competitors and admits not knowing their names and who is the fastest.

“They all come up to me for questions because I’ve been in swimming forever,” he said. “I help out the younger generation. It’s still fun.”

Lochte still has his supporters, whether it’s his fans who know he’s always willing to accommodate their requests or those in the sport.

Jon Urbanchek, the 84-year-old retired Michigan coach, had a front-row seat for many of Lochte’s successes and failures.

“He’s a beautiful, very loving person. He admits he made some bad judgments,” Urbanchek said. “He deserves to have an honorable exit.”

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South Korea’s first gold medalist of 2018 PyeongChang Olympics to compete for China

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Lim Hyo-Jun, a short track speed skater who won South Korea’s first gold medal of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, has been cleared to skate for China and was reportedly named to the national team Monday.

Lim, who won the 1500m on the first day of medal competition at the PyeongChang Games, began the process of switching to China after a June 2019 incident where he pulled down a teammate’s trousers, leaving him standing, exposed, in front of female teammates.

Lim, the 2019 World overall champion, was banned from the team for a year and later found guilty of sexual harassment before the verdict was overturned on appeal.

It was reported in March 2021 that Lim was in the process of trying to gain Chinese nationality to compete at the Beijing Winter Olympics, but Lim was not cleared to switch by the International Skating Union until this July. His Chinese name is Lin Xiaojun.

Another star South Korean skater, triple 2006 Olympic gold medalist Ahn Hyun-Soo, switched to Russia after not making the 2010 Olympic team. He then won three golds for the host nation as Viktor Ahn at the 2014 Sochi Games.

China’s national team for the upcoming season reportedly does not include veterans Wu Dajing, the nation’s lone gold medalist across all sports at the 2018 Olympics, and Fan Kexin, a three-time Olympic medalist.

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Brigid Kosgei, world record holder, to miss London Marathon

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World record holder Brigid Kosgei withdrew before Sunday’s London Marathon due to a right hamstring injury that has bothered her for the last month.

“My training has been up and down and not the way I would like to prepare to be in top condition,” was posted on Kosgei’s social media. “We’ve decided it’s best I withdraw from this year’s race and get further treatment on my injuries in order to enter 2023 stronger than ever.”

Kosgei, a 28-year-old Kenyan mother of twins, shattered the world record by 81 seconds at the 2019 Chicago Marathon. She clocked 2:14:04 to smash Brit Paula Radcliffe‘s record from 2003.

Since, Kosgei won the 2020 London Marathon, took silver at the Tokyo Olympics, placed fourth at the 2021 London Marathon and won this past March’s Tokyo Marathon in what was then the third-fastest time in history (2:16:02).

Ethiopian Tigist Assefa moved into the top three by winning the Berlin Marathon last Sunday in 2:15:37.

The London Marathon women’s field includes Kenyan Joyciline Jepkosgei, a winner in New York City (2019) and London (2021), and Yalemzerf Yehualaw, who was the Ethiopian record holder until Assefa won in Berlin.

The men’s field is headlined by Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest male marathoner in history, and Brit Mo Farah, a four-time Olympic champion on the track.

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