Ryan Lochte is one step closer to finding his Olympic form…
The 30-year-old half-Cuban American swimmer, an 11-time Olympic medalist, beat his rival Michael Phelps to win the 200-meter individual medley at the U.S. national championships Sunday night, leaving Phelps winless in four races at his biggest meet since coming out of retirement.
But Lochte and Phelps weren’t in their usual lanes at the center of the pool, spots that go to the fastest qualifiers.
Lochte was in Lane 2, and Phelps was in Lane 6. They couldn’t see each other, either, with Phelps breathing toward the stands and Lochte the other way.
Still, the race came down to the two old rivals, with Phelps chasing Lochte for a change.
Lochte, the world champion, led all the way and touched in 1 minute, 56.50 seconds.
He’s coming off major knee surgery and had a setback at a meet in April, all of which limited his time in the water.
“This year has been up and down, but I’m glad I got a win knowing that I really haven’t done the work I wanted to,” he said. “I always relied on my training, but this year I haven’t done that training, so my confidence was low.”
Lochte’s time was the second fastest in the world this year; Phelps’ was third quickest.
“If you go out in that race, it’s pretty painful in the end,” Phelps said.
It was Lochte’s first victory of the five-day meet after finishing second in the 100 freestyle and third in the 200 backstroke.
“I guess we can say this is kind of our off year,” Lochte said of him and Phelps. “Well, I can say that.”