Ryan Lochte won the 200m individual medley on Sunday to close the U.S. Championships, his first meet back from a 14-month suspension over a social media blunder.
At 35, Lochte proved he has a chance to make a fifth Olympic team next year.
The 12-time Olympic medalist clocked 1:57.76 for his 27th national title, .12 faster than his time trial Thursday.
His time ranks 11th in the world this year and fourth among Americans (the top three — Chase Kalisz, Michael Andrew and Abrahm Devine — skipped nationals after competing at the world championships last week).
The top two at trials in June make the Olympic team.
“This was a lot easier 10 years ago,” Lochte, breathing heavily, told Tanith White on Olympic Channel moments after getting out of the pool. “I got a lot of ways to go for 2020.”
Lochte had to be satisfied, given he said he trained “maybe” four times per week in the seven weeks since the birth of his second child, daughter Liv.
“The time wasn’t that good … but it’s a good starting point,” he said. “I’m just kicking the rust off.”
Lochte was also banned from competition until late July. He was caught last year receiving an IV infusion of a legal substance that, after a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency investigation with Lochte’s cooperation, was deemed above the legal limit of 100 milliliters.
The probe was sparked by Lochte, for he posted a social-media image of the infusion in May 2018. Lochte had already served a 10-month ban for his Rio gas station incident.
“It’s pretty obvious now, I’m 100 percent family,” Lochte said. “That party-boy image that I used to have, I know it kind of messed me up, and it stuck with me, but that’s not me. I could care less about that lifestyle. My celebrations are picking up my son and my daughter and playing with them.”
Lochte, who went to rehab for alcohol addiction during his most recent ban, will turn 36 during the Tokyo Olympics. He will be older than all but two previous U.S. Olympic swimmers in individual events (Edgar Adams, 1904, and Dara Torres, 2008).
In other events Sunday, Madisyn Cox won the women’s 200m IM in 2:10.00, ranking her ninth in the world this year and second among Americans behind Melanie Margalis. Cox, the 2017 World bronze medalist, missed last week’s worlds after failing a 2018 drug test over what she said was a contaminated multivitamin.
Ryan Held won the 50m freestyle in 21.87, lowering his personal best twice Sunday. Held, a Rio Olympic 4x100m free champion, won the 100m free on Wednesday in a time that would have taken bronze at worlds. His 50m free was not quite as impressive but does rank him third among Americans this year behind Caeleb Dressel and Michael Andrew.
Erika Brown took the women’s 50m free in 24.71, ranking her third among Americans this year behind world champion Simone Manuel and Rio Olympian Abbey Weitzeil.
Ally McHugh completed a sweep of the 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles by taking the longest distance in 16:05.98. The field lacked Katie Ledecky, whose world record is 15:20.48 in an event that debuts at the Olympics next year. McHugh ranks fourth among Americans in the 1500m this year.
Bobby Finke upset Zane Grothe in the 800m free, clocking 7:47.58, the fastest time by an American this year. Finke, who also won the 1500m free and 400m IM at nationals, would have placed eighth at worlds with that time.
The 2019-20 swimming season starts with a Tyr Pro Series stop in Greensboro, N.C., from Nov. 6-9.
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