Can Ryan Lochte Make His 5th Olympics?
Most athletes who have achieved what Lochte has achieved would be satisfied to look at a full trophy case and say they had done enough. Lochte is a very different kind of star athlete.
What exactly has he achieved? While at the University of Florida (2004 to 2007), he won seven NCAA Championships and was twice named NCAA Swimmer of the Year. In his prior four Olympics, he stood on the podium 12 times to claim 6 gold medals, 3 silver medals, and 3 bronze medals. Throw in a basket full of World Championship and Olympic Trial medals, and you have the makings of a swimmer that belongs in the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
The Rocky Road To Tokyo
While plying his trade as an elite amateur swimmer, Lochte has had more than his fair share of issues. In 2016 at the Rio Olympics, he claimed one Gold Medal as a member of the 4×200 m freestyle relay team. Since then, the road to the Tokyo Games has been a little rocky.
In all fairness, his troubles really began in August of 2016 while there in Rio to participate in The Rio Games. After claiming that he and some teammates were robbed at gunpoint while outside a gas station, he was charged with filing a false complaint, charges that were eventually dropped. What in fact happened was he and at least one of his teammates were caught on camera vandalizing the gas station. The issue was pucked up by the international media, forcing the US Olympic committee to hit him and his teammates with a 10-month suspension.
In July of 2018, Lochte again found himself in the crosshairs of another U.S. government regulatory body. This time, it was the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) that imposed a 14-month suspension from competition on him. The suspension was given to him because, two months earlier, he had received a “prohibited intravenous infusion.”
After receiving word of the suspension, Lochte told the press: “I have never attempted to gain any advantage by putting anything illegal in my body…I may be on the sideline from competition, but I’ll continue to train every day…I want nothing more than to earn the privilege to swim for my country in my fifth Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020.”
The Lochte Quest for Number Five
For a swimmer who is 36 years old, the news of the suspension of the Tokyo Olympics games due to concerns over the COVID19 pandemic had to be disappointing. It meant his body was going to have to endure one more tough year of training if he still wanted to participate in Tokyo this year. Being the warrior he has always been, there was little doubt he would stay on for the duration.
To qualify for a free trip to Tokyo and the right to once again proudly represent the U.S. Swimming team, Lochte will have to make it through the Olympic Trials one more time. The second wave of qualifying began on June 13, 2021, and is scheduled to conclude on June 20, 2021.
In all, he is entered insix events. The list of events in which he entered includes:
- 200m Individual Medley
- 400m Individual Medley
- 200m Backstroke
- 100m Butterfly
- 100m Backstroke
- 200m Freestyle
In all likelihood, he will drop his name from consideration in the 100m Butterfly and 100m Backstroke due to scheduling conflicts with other events.
Realistically, Locht has two chances to make it on the plane to Tokyo. His best chance is in the 200m Individual Medley where he is the current World Record Holder. It’s also the only event he qualified for in 2016 as an individual swimmer. Keeping in mind that the U.S. swimming team will take a minimum of two and a maximum of three swimmers from each event, Locht has a very good chance of qualifying here. His chief rivals will be 22-year-old Michael Andrew and 19-year-old Carson Foster.
His next best chance would come in the 200m Freestyle event. He is not favored to finish among the top three here, but a fourth-place finish would land him on the U.S. 4 x 200m Relay Team, the very event he hit with for gold in Rio.
Will this be the Ryan Lochte Olympics for the fifth time, and tie him with the legendary Mike Phelps for most Olympic qualifiers for a swimmer? We’ll know in about a week. Until then, it’s a good bet that he is going to leave everything he has in the pool in his quest for five.