If Ryan Lochte is to make a fifth Olympic team in his trademark event at nearly age 36, he will likely have to go through 18-year-old Carson Foster at the June Olympic trials.
But Foster scored a psychological victory on Saturday, relegating Lochte to second place in the 200m individual medley at a Pro Series meet in Greensboro, N.C.
Foster, the world junior champion, touched the wall in 1:58.93. Lochte, the four-time world champion and world-record holder in the event, registered 2:00.65. Both were off their fastest times of the year, unsurprising at a November meet where top swimmers are usually not at their peaks.
“I grew up idolizing Ryan,” Foster, who was 2 years old when Lochte competed at his first Olympics in 2004, said on NBCSN. “It’s an honor to be able to race him. I look forward to racing him more.”
That will surely happen. Foster and Lochte are two of the leading contenders in the 200m IM, though trials are still eight months away. Chase Kalisz, who earned gold and bronze at the last two worlds, is fastest among Americans this year by a comfortable .71 at 1:56.78.
Lochte and Foster rank Nos. 4 and 5, both within a second of the No. 2 swimmer Michael Andrew. The top two at trials make the Olympic team.
Lochte is trying to become the oldest U.S. Olympic male swimmer in an individual event since 1904. And doing so after a pair of suspensions — 10 months in 2016 and 2017 for his Rio Olympic gas station incident and 14 months for a May 2018 IV infusion of an illegal amount of a legal substance.
He also spent six weeks in rehab for alcohol addiction after a reported early morning California hotel incident in October 2018.
Foster, meanwhile, is trying to become the youngest U.S. Olympic male swimmer since 2000, when a 15-year-old Michael Phelps made his Olympic debut. Foster, who has been breaking Phelps national age-group records since he was 10, committed to the University of Texas in March 2018, two years before he graduates high school in Ohio.
The Pro Series moves to Knoxville, Tenn., for the next stop in January. Top swimmers are also expected at the U.S. Open in Atlanta in early December.
In other events Saturday, Katie Ledecky won the 800m free by 15.93 seconds in 8:14.95. She has broken 8:15 a total of 25 times in her career, according to USA Swimming’s database. Her world record is 8:04.79, and no other woman has broken 8:14.
Ledecky finished the meet, her first on the Pro Series since struggling through the summer world championships with an illness, with her trademark sweep of the 200m, 400m and 800m frees.
“That felt about a thousand times better than it did at worlds,” Ledecky said Saturday. “I know I’m in a good spot right now.”
Simone Manuel also won her signature events, following her Thursday victory in the 100m freestyle with a 50m free title on Saturday. She clocked 24.96 seconds, beating Catie DeLoof by .16.
Manuel is the American record holder and world champion in both sprints and shaping for a possible six-event lineup at the Tokyo Games when including four relays.
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