Lochte, 27, can’t wait to get out. During a recent pool workout, he flagrantly cheated when he fell behind during drills, executing flip turns in the middle of the pool to catch up. He’s already planning to move into a penthouse apartment near the beach in Southern California after the London Summer Games.
He has endured the monotony since he arrived as an unheralded freshman in 2003 for one simple reason: He has improved, consistently and dramatically.
It’s been amazing, actually, the growing up he has done here as a swimmer, even as he hangs on to many remnants of his collegiate days. This summer will provide the chance for something of a final unveiling of the Ryan Lochte Project, a graduate and post-graduate experiment undertaken by Lochte and University of Florida Coach Gregg Troy when few people had heard of either of them.
At 6 feet 2, Lochte is much shorter than most top male freestylers. He looks more like a fullback than a freestyle swimming star.
“We convinced him he needed to do things different than everyone else,” said Troy, also the 2012 U.S. Olympic men’s swimming team coach. “He set goals and told me his goals. I told him, ‘A lot of guys out there are better than you. If we do just what they do, you’re not going to catch up.’ ”
Added Troy: “If I was going out and designing an athletic body, his is not one I would design. He compensated for that with a good feel for the water and good mechanics . . . [but] he had ground to make up.”
Lochte likely will compete in five or six individual events at the U.S. Olympic trials in Omaha that begin Monday, though he actually entered 11. He likely will be appointed to all three relay swims in London, so by the time the trials are over, he could have nine Olympic gold medals within his sight. Phelps won eight in 2008.
“I definitely want to make history,” Lochte said. “I want to go down as one of the greatest. At the same time, I’m not really looking at a number. I’m not looking to go out and win nine gold medals; I’m going out there to have fun. I love racing . . . and that excitement of getting on the blocks and going head to head with anyone.”
‘I can beat these guys’
When Phelps earned his first world record and appeared in his first Olympics in Sydney in 2000 as a highly regarded 15-year-old, Lochte was drawing relatively little notice as a junior at Spruce Creek High in Daytona.