Ryan Lochte took all of one day off after winning six medals at swimming’s world championships last summer in Shanghai.
One day. For a sponsor photo shoot.
And then he was back in the pool — gearing up for 2012, and the U.S. Trials and then the London Olympics. It’s Thanksgiving, of course, this Thursday. He’ll be in the pool.
“I’m ready to rock this thing,” he said Sunday night before being named “male athlete of the year” — over Michael Phelps — at the Golden Goggles, USA Swimming’s annual awards event, held in Los Angeles at the J.W. Marriott hotel at LA Live.
He added, “Come London, I want to turn some heads.”
Lochte’s 2011 featured two victories over Phelps in Shanghai, in the 200 free and then in the 200 individual medley. In that 200 IM Lochte touched in 1:54-flat, the first world record since the plastic suits that rocked swimming in 2009 were banned, Phelps finishing a very close second, in 1:54.16.
Lochte had himself held the prior mark, 1:54.10, set at the world championships in Rome two years ago. In Shanghai, upon setting the new mark, Lochte had said, “I wanted to do something that everyone thought was impossible.”
In Los Angeles Sunday night, Lochte said, “I was happy with the outcome at world championships. But there’s so much more. Definitely — next year, a lot better.”
He also said, “A couple guys might have something to say about that. They can talk all they want. I would like to see them stop me. This is my year.”
Phelps, who didn’t attend Sunday night’s event, didn’t win in any of the four categories in which he was nominated. Lochte, meanwhile, showed up dressed to the nines, in white on black, all Ralph Lauren, accented with a pair of slip-on black shoes emblazoned on top with a script “RL.”
Ralph Lauren? Ryan Lochte?
The man has always had style.
And, of course, confidence.
This is the thing about Lochte. Some get on the blocks with the great Phelps and, even if they don’t admit it, are if not fearful of being in the same race at least a tad wary.
It’s understandable. Phelps has 16 Olympic medals, 14 gold. He famously won eight golds in Beijing. He has 33 world championship medals, 26 gold.
Lochte and Phelps are genuinely friends and, at the same time, respectful and intense rivals. They push each other. They bring out, in each other, the best.
And each knows it.
Lochte, though, fears nothing and no one.
As Lochte said Sunday night, referring to Phelps, “What he has done for the sport of swimming is amazing. I don’t think anyone in the entire world can duplicate what he has done … I am honored to be in the same disciplines. To race with him, to be in the same pool, to be on the same team with him, is seriously amazing.
At the same time, he said, “I know a lot of swimmers, they see me or Michael, they go, ‘Oh well, I’ll go for second or third or fourth.’ That’s not me. I’m going there to win. I’m not going there for second or third. I’m training to win. Not to go for second or third.
And as for Phelps, Lochte said, “There’s no doubt in my mind he’s training really hard. He wasn’t really happy with last year,” meaning the 2011 worlds in Shanghai, where Phelps said repeatedly he wasn’t in tip-top shape.
“I know he’s training hard. That’s motivating me. Because I know he’s training. I want to go back in the water and train even harder than I have trained before.”
Just over 200 days now until the U.S. Trials in Omaha, another few weeks beyond that to the Olympics in London, and on a rainy night in Los Angeles here was the unassailable prediction from Ryan Lochte: “It’s going to be a good show.”