Lochte flops: Olympic career likely over after 7th in 200 IM
Omaha, Neb. — Ryan Lochte’s Olympic career is apparently over.
He won’t get a chance for one more swim in Tokyo.
Looking to make it back to the Summer Games for a fifth time, the 36-year-old Lochte didn't come close. He struggled to a seventh-place finish in the 200-meter individual medley at the U.S. swimming trials Friday night.
Michael Andrew — 14 years younger than Lochte — romped to victory by setting a blistering pace over the first three laps and holding on at the end to win in 1 minute, 55.44 seconds.
Chase Kalisz, who already had won the 400 individual medley at these trials, claimed another Olympic event by touching second in 1:56.97.
Lochte was lagging far behind. He only beat one other swimmer, settling for a time of 1:59.67 that really showed his age.
“This ain’t the end of the road," Lochte vowed in a poolside interview with NBC. "There’s a lot more I want to accomplish in the sport of swimming, whether it’s in the pool or outside the pool.”
A 12-time Olympic medalist, Lochte was the last swimmer to climb out of the pool. He blew a kiss to the crowd and was greeted by a parade of swimmers who wanted to pay homage to his great career.
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Kalisz waited at the edge of the pool to dole out a hug. Andrew did the same. Even Michael Phelps, Lochte's longtime rival who retired after the 2016 Rio Games, came down the from the stands to embrace Lochte.
“He's a legend in the water,” Andrew said. “He's done some incredible things. To share the pool with him is always an honor.”
Lochte went over to greet his wife and two young children, a sign of his different life since he embarrassed himself at the Rio Games by lying about being robbed at gunpoint during a boisterous night on the town.
Proclaiming himself a changed man, Lochte arrived in Omaha saying he not only expected to make the team, he felt he was still capable of winning a medal in Tokyo. He went all in on the 200 IM — the only event where he had a realistic chance of qualifying — and made it through to the final.
That's where age finally caught up with him.
In other events, Ryan Murphy romped to victory in the 200 backstroke, adding to his triumph in the 100 back, while Abby Weitzel won the 100 freestyle after defending Olympic champion Simone Manuel shockingly failed to advance from the semifinals the previous night.
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Lilly King also booked a second event in Tokyo, though she didn't tough the wall first. The outspoken American settled for the runner-up spot in the 200 breaststroke, touching the wall nearly three-quarters of a second behind Annie Lazor.
King had previously won the 100 breast.
Murphy set himself up to go for another backstroke-double in Japan, leading the entire race to post a winning time of 1 minute, 54.20 seconds.
The 25-year-old Floridian, who trains in California, swept both races at the Rio Games. The American men haven't lost a backstroke race at the Olympics since 1992 in Barcelona.
“It feels awesome,” Murphy said. “I put in the work. I mean, I worked really hard, better than I have any other year. I'm really excited to get that double going.”
He's not feeling any pressure to extend the U.S. streak.
“Obviously, I want to go in there and win. I'm as competitive as anyone,” Murphy said. “But it doesn't make or break my life.”
Bryce Mefford took the likely second Olympic spot behind Murphy in 1:54.79. No one else was within a second of him.
Lazor had just missed out on a spot in the 100 breast, settling for third in an event that King has dominated.
But the 26-year-old Lazor, a native of Michigan, earned her first trip to the Olympics in the longer breaststroke event.
Lazor's winning time was 2:21.07, a comfortable distance ahead of King at 2:21.75.
While the 100 has always been King's baby, she's becoming stronger in the 200.
Not strong enough to beat Lazor.
“She’s pretty fearless in it now,” Lazor said. “I never really knew I had the race in the bag.”
When the race was over, King gave Lazor a big hug.
“This is Team USA," King said. “It's not Team Lilly.”
Weitzell's winning time in the 100 free was 53.53, with Erika Brown taking the second individual spot for Tokyo in 53.59. Olivia Smoliga (53.63) and Natalie Hinds (53.84) finished third and fourth to earn spots on the 4x100 free relay.
Hinds became the first Black swimmer to make the Olympic team, an especially poignant moment in light of Manuel's struggles with overtraining syndrome.
“I really feel for Simone and hope she’s able to get better," Hinds said, “because we’d definitely love to see her in Tokyo.”