Even at the age of 36, well past the time when most elite swimmers hang up the suit and goggles, Ryan Lochte is still training with his eye on a grueling five event for the 2021 Olympic Trials, a schedule that could conceivably result in 14 swims in seven days.
Speaking with our very own Mel Stewart in the latest Gold Medal Minute, Lochte revealed that right now, he’s planning on swimming the 200 IM, 400 IM, 200 free, 200 back, and 100 fly at next summer’s Trials. That’s similar to schedule he swam in 2016, where he swam five events, as many as any other male swimmer, but where he swam the 100 free instead of the 200 back.
|June 13||400 IM||400 IM|
|June 14||200 free||200 free (semis)|
|June 15||—||200 free (finals)|
|June 17||200 back, 200 IM||
200 back(semis), 200 IM (semis)
|June 18||100 fly||
200 back (finals), 200 IM (finals), 100 fly (semis)
|June 19||—||100 fly|
While that’s a pretty tough schedule, no matter how old a swimmer is, Lochte has always embraced a full Trials schedule, usually in the toughest events. Here’s a quick look how the 2021 event lineup Lochte mentioned to Mel compares to his four previous Trials lineups, going back to 2004 when he was just 19.
|200 IM||400 IM||100 Back||200 Back||100 Free||200 Free||1500 Free||100 Fly|
In four previous Trials, Lochte has never swam less than five events, although he didn’t necessarily swim all two or three rounds in each event each year. He swam five events in 2004, including the 1500 (he was the SEC Champion in the 1650 the year before as a freshman). He added then dropped the 1500 and added in the backstrokes for 2008. In 2012, he dropped the 100 back and went after a 100 fly spot, finishing 3rd, before dropping the 200 back, an event in which he was previously the world record holder, for 2016.
There’s no doubt he’s been putting in the work, and nine years later, no one has broken his world record in the 200 IM, and he won that event at Nationals last year. Still, he’ll be just shy of 37 next June, and you have to wonder about that 200 back/200 IM/100 fly triple, so no matter what he’s saying now, it wouldn’t be surprising if he and Gregg Troy tweak that event schedule as we get closer to Trials.
You’ve also got to wonder a bit about the 400 IM. Sure, he says that Troy has been training for him for it, but he hasn’t been faster than 4:15 since the 2016 Trials, where he tweaked his groin on that first day, possibly affecting the rest of his meet. Additionally, there’s not a super clear path in that event, where 13 US swimmers have been faster than him since Trials, including veterans like Chase Kalisz and Jay Litherland, as well as younger guys ranging from Charlie Swanson to Carson Foster.
The 200 free might be an easier path for him, since the top four finishers are guaranteed to make the team, and the top six usually go, but again, it’s a super-crowded event for the USA right now, with probably 12-15 guys who have a legitimate shot, and Lochte hasn’t broken 1:50 since 2016.
Likewise, both the 200 back and the 100 fly have established stars (Ryan Murphy, Caeleb Dressel) penciled in for a spot, and a bevy of younger stars (Shaine Casas, Maxime Rooney) gunning for those second spots. Especially he drops the 200 back, the 200 IM is probably his best shot at this point. No one has broken his world record from 2011, he has the 6th-fastest time among US men this quad/quint, and as our GMM points out, he won the 200 IM at Nationals last summer when he still wasn’t in great shape.
No one know what lies ahead between now and Trials, whether we’re talking about a global pandemic or the training and health of an accomplished 36 year-old swimmer who’s trying to defy common wisdom about aging swimmers taking on grueling schedules. But, assuming Trials happen and assuming Lochte is able keep training like he says he’s been, it’ll be fun to watch him go for it, and in the meantime, we get to have fun speculating.