Omaha, Neb. – Ryan Lochte knows what people think of him. He is eager to forget the worst of them.
The swimmer, who embarrass himself and the US in Rio de Janeiro five years ago, is looking to make a record fifth Olympic team.
But time is no longer on Lochte’s side. He is 36 years old, married and the father of two young children. His reprehensible behavior in Rio seems to be from a long time ago. “My life has completely changed,” he said, dyeing the temples of his severed hair gray.
Michael Phelps, now retired and the father of three children, knows how tough it is to face his former teammate and rival at the Trials starting Sunday.
But still the elasticity persists.
“More than anything, I want to make the Olympic team and medal in the Olympics,” he said. “It must be proving a lot of people wrong and that’s what I want to do.”
His results in the tests did not indicate that he was ready to join Phelps and Dara Torres in making the most Olympic appearances of any American swimmer. Since Rio, Lochte has competed sporadically and has not come close to being his former dominant self.
“We didn’t see in competition what we see in training,” said Lochte’s coach, Greg Troy. “He’s done a good job training.”
Lochte is seeded 15th in the 400m individual medley, which opens the trials. He has entered six events in the eight-day meet, although it is unlikely that he will swim each one. The 200 IM, in which he still holds the world record set in 2011, appears to be his best chance. He is ranked fifth.
“I don’t have that target on my back anymore,” he said. “I know I’m hunting them rather than being a hunter.”
Dressel Lochte in Omaha is not writing off.
“I would give him a very serious chance to go and win a medal at the Olympics, not just make the US team,” Dressel said. “I’m not really buying the whole old man thing anymore. He knows how to get up and boogie.”
And not to mention Dressel Lochte’s famous partying ways.
His days of over-drinking and carousing came to an end sometime after Rio. This is where Lochte lied about being robbed at gunpoint at a gas station with three accomplices. He later apologized, was suspended for 10 months by USA Swimming, and lost his major sponsors. Two years later, Lochte was suspended for 14 months by the US Anti-Doping Agency after he posted online a photo of her receiving a vitamin B-12 infusion, which exceeded the allowable limit.
“I’ve completely changed my life,” he said. “I am a better person, I have grown up. I am a family man, I am a father and a husband.”
The swimmer credits his wife Kayla, son, 4-year-old, Caiden, and daughter Liv, who turns 2 next Thursday, for promoting the change in his behavior.
“I’m obsessed with being a father,” Lochte said. “It’s the funniest thing in the world.”
Troy knows he’s dealing with a different Lochte than the swimmer, who swung the bars in Gainesville during and after his college years in Florida, alternately picking up the tab for others and generously was picking up the tab.
“There’s a confession on his part that it’s probably the last round and he definitely wants to leave in his mouth with a slightly better taste than what he had made,” Troy said.
Lochte is already one of the greats in the game. His 12 medals, including six golds, make him the second most decorated swimmer in Olympic history behind only Phelps. Torres and Natalie Coughlin also have 12 career medals.
He remains a welcome presence on the pool deck, with fellow swimmers calling him “Big Daddy.”
“They’ll be like, ‘Oh, come on, old man. You can do it,'” Lochte said. “I’m like, ‘Grrr. If only you knew how hard it is.’ They keep me small. “
Whatever happens in the trials, Lochte will be at peace with himself.
“I just know I’ll have nothing,” he said, “and that’s what I want.”
AP Sports Writer Paul Newbery contributed to this report.
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