Ryan Lochte

Ryan Lochte, Madisyn Cox -- now, what will Lilly King say?

Ryan Lochte, Madisyn Cox -- now, what will Lilly King say?

Suddenly we have two — two — top athletes out of this week's U.S. swimming national championships. For doping-related reasons.

What will Lilly King say?

Ryan Lochte got himself suspended Monday, again, this time for 14 months, and every time one thinks the Ryan Lochte story has taken a weird-enough twist it just gets weirder.

And then there is Madisyn Cox, who is out for two years and whose case bears remarkable similarities to that of the Russian Yulia Efimova. That's right. The same Efimova who King decided to make the villain in a Cold War-style doping drama that far too many people lapped up as if it was Rocky and Ivan Drago.

Imagine the glee this week elsewhere, and particularly in Russian media. Two Americans! This is where, again, it's useful to remember that as an American athlete on the world stage a healthy dose of humility goes a long way.

Reminder: you don't see Katie Ledecky, ever, calling anyone out.

No one, ever again, should have to go through this

No one, ever again, should have to go through this

When our youngest daughter was just 18 months old, we were at a friend’s house here in Los Angeles. In the back was an unfenced pool. In a flash, she had toddled out to the pool and jumped in. Alertly, my wife ran across the house and jumped in — fully clothed — after her.

Another story. When I worked at the LA Times, we were at a party down in Orange County with some newspaper friends. We were all much younger parents then, and there were all kinds of little children around. I happened to be on duty at the hot tub when one of the kids, who was just 2, just that fast, sank to the bottom. I fished her out. 

Our daughter went on to do years and years at the LA County junior lifeguard program and a couple days ago finished her freshman year at Northwestern. That 2-year-old just graduated from Michigan.

These stories have happy endings. 

Way, way, way too many don’t.  

Please: let’s come together in the aftermath of the sorrowful drowning death of 19-month-old Emeline Miller, daughter of Olympic ski star Bode and his wife, Morgan, the professional volleyball player.

Let Emmy’s death be a call to action.

Alfred E. Neuman as swim spokesdude: What, Team USA worry?

Alfred E. Neuman as swim spokesdude: What, Team USA worry?

BUDAPEST — In the land before time, when there were no cellphones, those of us of a certain generation were sent out of the house by exasperated mothers who didn’t know the first thing about bicycle helmets and, truth be told, didn’t much care. They just wanted us out until it was dark.

So off we went, baseball cards in our spokes. It was a very exciting day when the new edition of certain magazines would show up in the racks at the Ben Franklin five-and-dime store. It was super-exciting when Mad magazine would show up, with stupid Alfred E. Neuman on the cover, grinning, “What, me worry?”

Now that these 2017 FINA world championships are in the history books, can we finally acknowledge Alfred E. Neuman as Team USA’s unofficial spokesdude?

No Michael Phelps, no Ryan Lochte, no Missy Franklin. No worries.

Katie Ledecky is (gasp) not perfect and -- it's (more than) OK

Katie Ledecky is (gasp) not perfect and -- it's (more than) OK

BUDAPEST — If you listen closely, very closely, to Katie Ledecky this week at the 2017 FINA world championships, you can hear — appropriately — a college sophomore-to-be.

Someone who sees that there is a big world out there beyond swimming, that swimming is just a piece of a long and meaningful life as part of a loving and supportive family. Who also sees that many of the big stars on the American team who have come before her in recent years have wrestled with some big issues and maybe — probably — could have benefitted from some quality time between Olympic Games.

If you were Katie Ledecky and you had done pretty much everything there is to do at the highest levels, and now, after Wednesday, in the women’s 200-meter freestyle, you were proven human after all, which in its way is the lifting of an incredible burden, might you be inclined to maybe think of 2018, or at least some portion of it after the college swim season, as, well, me time?

As a constructive and positive stroke all around?

Day One, two golds, Ledecky is ... 'incredible'

Day One, two golds, Ledecky is ... 'incredible'

BUDAPEST — It’s only Day One of the swim action of these 2017 FINA world championships, and here is the dilemma.

How many different ways are there to say Katie Ledecky is great?

In the first final in a meet she is expected to — strike that, absent something freaky, will — dominate, Ledecky set a new championship record in the women’s 400 freestyle, winning by more than three seconds.

Lochte gets 10 months: big whoop

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Ryan Lochte gets a 10-month suspension. To share the insight offered by a teen observer: big whoop.

You know who the big winner here is? Ryan Lochte.

That conclusion is as undeniable as it is undesirable. It is also, despite the best intentions of Olympic and swim officials, the most profoundly disappointing part of this entire episode — all of it, from start to finish.

Ryan Lochte and Cheryl Burke in this week's DWTS publicity tour // Getty Images

From Ryan Lochte’s perspective, it was all about Ryan Lochte on that boozy night in Rio. For the next week, it was all about Ryan Lochte instead of the scores of other athletes, American and otherwise, chasing their own Olympic dreams in Brazil.

Even since then, too. Since being back in the States from Rio, there have been only two main questions — one, how was it and, two, what about Ryan Lochte?

On Wednesday night, in the hours after TMZ broke the story of the 10-month suspension, it was still all about Lochte — instead of the athletes on U.S. Paralympic team or the Paralympic opening ceremony back in Rio.

And it was all about Lochte on Thursday, when the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Swimming formally announced the sanction. The USA Today headline: “Lochte’s Brazil gas station pals also suspended.”

Dude seriously could not have scripted this any better in advance of being on “Dancing with the Stars.”

Think about this:

In Rio, Lochte put the USOC and USA Swimming between a rock and a hard place. Then he did the exact same thing this week — those sports officials caught between wanting to impose sanction and the deadline of wanting to make that sanction public before next Monday’s season premiere of DWTS.

For that matter, the USOC and USA Swimming were in the same sort of rock-and-hard place dilemma in making it plain Lochte and the three others — Jimmy Feigen, Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger — had to be expecting a formal response. In embarrassing themselves, they also embarrassed the USOC and USA Swimming. So something had to be done. But what should that something be, and to what purpose?

Lochte also loses $100,000 in medal bonus money. That’s inconsequential in comparison to the four sponsors who have dropped him. But another has already said it intends to pick him up so he is clearly the farthest thing from radioactive.

The other three got four months away from the U.S. national team. Big whoop.

Bentz is back in college at Georgia. Conger is at Texas. They still can swim for their college teams.

Clockwise: Feigen, Lochte, Conger, Bentz // Getty Images

Lochte has to do 20 hours of community service, Bentz 10 for violating the Olympic Village curfew rules for athletes under 21. As swimming’s world governing body, FINA, pointed out, the International Olympic Committee insisted on a community service element.

Bottom line:

It’s all profoundly disturbing.

Lochte is not a bad guy. Indeed, he can be a very good guy — always willing to sign autographs, especially for kids. He is personable. He can be very likable.

On the theory that everyone has to navigate his or her own path in this life, let’s be honest: there have to be moments when it can’t be easy being Ryan Lochte, with 12 Olympic medals, when Michael Phelps has 28.

Even so, there is so much that remains so troubling.

In late June, GQ magazine published a feature entitled “The De-Broing of Ryan Lochte,” in which he avowed that the 2016 version of himself that would be on display in Rio would be “more mature.”

After Rio, this from Lochte in People magazine:

“I made things up. I didn’t tell the truth.  And that’s on me. I messed up and made a big mistake, and I’m sorry.”

Even if you want to believe him — and there is, again, a lot of good in Lochte — it’s wholly unclear that he gets it.

To be clear: that is not a referendum on Lochte’s intelligence. He is not dumb. Really, he is not.

“I’ve been thinking about it a lot, because I have a big heart, and I feel like [I] let down a lot of people,” he also told the magazine. “I feel bad that I have let people down.”

All good. Except for what he said next:

“It sucks that it was one of the main focuses of the Olympics. That’s what stinks. The media blew it up and talked about it. It got out of control, and this was all anyone could talk about.”

The media blew it up? Hello?

“Everyone started watching it and they didn’t watch the athletes. That’s another reason why I’m so hurt by it, because it took away from the Games.”

Ryan Lochte is hurting?

Where is the responsibility and accountability?

That whole actions-matter-more-than-words thing, you know.

The straight line from peeing on a gas station wall to lying about it to abandoning your teammates to deal for themselves with the consequences to being featured on one of America’s most popular television shows makes for a discordant message — a bad, very bad disconnect — when it comes to the values the Olympic movement, the USOC and USA Swimming purport to stand for.

Here was Lochte, in Rio, before the partying but after his last race, fifth in the 200-meter IM, off the podium:

“In life, in swimming, in sports, there are always ups and downs. It is what you do when you have those downs who make you what you are.”

Actions, words, etc.

It’s not that Lochte is going on DWTS. It’s that he’s going now — without taking a hard look at who he is and, in particular, the role alcohol plays in his decision-making.

At 32, he knows the bro thing comes with a sell-by date. But talking about it is one thing and acting like the mature role model he should be apparently another. The question he has yet to examine, and far away from the spotlight: why is he saying one thing and doing another?

For the sake of discussion, which requires in this context putting aside for a moment the peeing and the lying — it’s also a fair question to ask whether Lochte should have stuck around Rio. That is, should he have left Brazil when he did?

Should he, in essence, have kept to his regularly scheduled programming?

Or is the idea of “justice” in Brazil so fundamentally different that he did the right thing by getting out of dodge?

Here’s what Lochte should have done:

The moment Conger and Bentz were dragged off a plane, that is the instant Lochte should have called the USOC and USA Swimming and asked, what can or should I do?

Did he?

Looking at this from another angle:

Lochte didn’t hurt anyone. When Phelps was arrested for driving under the influence, it was because he was deemed a menace to the public health. So: why is Lochte getting more?

Because this is apples and oranges. Luckily, Phelps didn’t hurt anyone. And what’s at issue here is reputation and credibility — for Lochte, the USOC and USA Swimming.

In a statement sent to USA Today, Lochte’s lawyer, Jeff Ostrow, said, “We accept the decision as [we] believe it is in everyone’s best interest to move forward, adding in the next paragraph, “That said, in my oinion, while the collective sanctions appear to be harsh when considering what actually happened that day — Ryan did not commit a crime, he did not put the public safety at risk and he did not cheat in his sport — we will leave it to others to evaluate the appropriateness of the penalties.”

That sort of thing is called advocating for your client.

Back to reality: Phelps got six months. U.S. soccer goalie Hope Solo got six months, too. So six was a starting place for Lochte.

And yet — 10 months away from competition won’t achieve anything, practically speaking.

Frankly, it’s laughable.

Yes, it’s 10 months, ending in June 2017, with a plus — just the way Phelps had to stay away from the 2015 world championships in Kazan, Russia, Lochte will now be ineligible for the 2017 worlds in Budapest next July.

So what?

The 10 months is time Lochte would have taken off, anyway.

He was never going to be serious about 2017. In Rio, after that 200 IM, he said:

“It has been a long journey. I think now it is time for me to take a break, mentally and physically, to just get myself back to when I was a little kid having fun again. i can’t say this is my last time swimming. So we will see what happens.”

Ryan Lochte in Rio, before it all blew up // Getty Images

For two, as the Wall Street Journal reported in a story midway through the Rio Games, Phelps’ lengthy post-London break may now well serve as a template for others, especially older athletes such as Lochte, who is now 32. Why grind away for four solid years when, as Phelps proved conclusively, you can train less — push for maybe 18 months — and still win bunches of medals? For his part, Phelps turned 31 in late June.

For three, in keeping Phelps away from the 2015 Kazan worlds, USA Swimming could not have been any more clear about how it views what is purportedly the marquee event on the FINA calendar in odd-numbered years. Same for Lochte and 2017 in Budapest.

A note: Lochte will now lose out on the chance to win a fifth straight 200 IM worlds gold. Same theme: so what? He already has four, and fifth at the 2016 Olympics hardly makes him the odds-on 2017 favorite.

For four, and this is a nugget that swim geeks would understand immediately but takes just a few words of explanation for a wider audience:

Leaving U.S. college racing aside, because it is measured in yards, there are two kinds of racing at the world-class level, both in meters: long-course events, such as the Olympics or the (2017 Budapest) worlds, which take part in a 50-meter pool, and short-course, over a 25-meter set-up.

Lochte has for years been one of the few U.S. swimmers to excel at both, a mainstay of the U.S. short-course team.

Anytime Lochte wants, he can start racing short-course to get himself back up to speed. So it’s way off the mark, as some might suggest, that Lochte’s career is at a dead-end for two or maybe even three years, until the 2019 long-course worlds, now set for Gwangju, South Korea.

At the DWTS “cast reveal” party this week in New York, Lochte also told People, “I’m excited for, not only myself, but everyone else to forget about what happened and to move forward. I think that’s what the biggest thing is — what we’re gonna do is just move forward and show off my dancing skills.”

Just — so troubling. All around.

Lochtegate: what is wrong with this picture?

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Something is seriously amiss in our cultural — indeed, our moral and ethical — landscape if Ryan Lochte’s next move turns out to be a starring turn on “Dancing with the Stars.”

The producers of DWTS must be themselves dancing with glee over this publicity coup. Everyone loves a train wreck. Who wouldn’t tune in?

Reports emerged Wednesday that Lochte would appear on the show. He was said to have struck a deal to appear on DWTS before Lochtegate — that is, his purported robbery tale and its twists and turns at the just-concluded Rio Games.

Ryan Lochte in Rio, before it all blew up // Getty Images

Everybody has a right to make a living and, goodness knows, Lochte may be in need of cash flow after four sponsors ditched him on Monday.

But that’s not the only interest that is crying out here to be served.

Indeed, here is the one that seems way more important than ratings. Heresy, some will say, but here goes:

How is it that a guy who “over-exaggerates,” to use his phrasing, gets to revel in a network-TV spotlight when he, whether intentionally or not, cut and run in the aftermath of whatever it is that happened at that Rio gas station, leaving his three much-younger teammates to fend for themselves with the Brazilian authorities while he, details of the story changing with different tellings, was already back in the States?

Lochte would hardly be the first to try the DWTS approach to redemption, as the Atlantic magazine underscored in a piece published Wednesday. The difference is that he is an Olympic athlete -- not a politician, or a politician's kid, or a celebrity chef.

Being an Olympic athlete -- in Lochte's case, a multiple Olympic champion -- brings with it a different set of responsibilities and sensibilities. Bristol Palin as role model? Be serious. Paula Deen? Get real. But Ryan Lochte, until Lochtegate, was role model to a lot of people.

That's why the likes of Apolo Ohno, Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin and Natalie Coughlin have been on the show. Those appearances showcased Olympic gold-medalist role models.

As a USA Today report makes clear, there are lots of sides to Lochtegate.

Even so, as anyone in middle or high school would reasonably ask:

How come Ryan Lochte gets to lie and he ran away and now he’s going to be on "Dancing with the Stars"?

Don’t we teach our kids that there are consequences to behavior? That the important thing is to tell the truth? That lying about it afterward is worse than whatever it is that actually happened?

Perception is as important, if not more, than reality. The USA Today report makes plain that elements of what Lochte has said are, in fact, true. But that pales in comparison to the big picture — the impact on impressionable young people, especially with school starting up again, because that first reasonable school-kid question leads directly to the next, which is the core issue.

What kind of message does it send to America’s young people when Olympic athletes misbehave and then seemingly get rewarded for it?

In response to that rhetorical question, a rhetorical question:

Doesn’t that cut against every single nugget of accountability and responsibility we as adults say is important?

For all the he-said, he-said and the back-and-forth about what happened that night, some pieces are indisputable:

Lochte “over-exaggerated.”

He is 32 years old. He was out with three college kids. Way after midnight, when grown-ups know nothing good happens. If you are in your early or mid-20s, and a guy — supposedly a team leader — who is 32 says, let’s do x, and this is a guy who you grew up idolizing on YouTube and now you’re out partying with him, you’re going to say no?

The now-infamous Rio Shell station // Getty Images

By his own account, Lochte had been drinking. A lot. So much that when he gave his first account to Billy Bush, he says, he was still feeling it.

What’s especially disquieting about all this is that USA Swimming has long had a distinct culture of accountability and responsibility. Over the years, at any number of world championships and Olympic Games, the stand-up nature of America’s best swimmers has readily come to the fore when someone, say, makes a mistake on a relay — it’s one for all and all for one.

But that’s not in any sense what happened here. Where is Lochte’s accountability? Where was his responsibility to his younger teammates and, indeed, to the team itself?

Before any edition of a Games, every single U.S. athlete on an Olympic team, since the days of ski racer Bode Miller’s declaration at the 2006 Torino Winter Games that he got to “party and socialize at an Olympic level,” goes through what’s called an “ambassador” program.

The thrust is to remind American athletes that being on the Olympic team is a privilege but one that, because they are Americans, carries special responsibilities. Be humble, the U.S. Olympians are told. Most of all, be respectful in every regard when it comes to the host country.

Lochte has been through that program at least three times — 2008, 2012 and 2016. Or at least he should have been through it three times. What, did everything sound to him like Miss Othmar in the Charlie Brown cartoons? Wah wah wah? What?

A point of intrigue here is that Lochte had said in Rio, after he was done racing but before the whole thing erupted, that he was mentally, physically and emotionally worn out.  Maybe he would try to come back in four years to try for the Tokyo Olympics, he said, but for now he needed some time off.

One of his fundamental miscalculations is that he got going on that time off too soon.

Or is that really what he was thinking? In a June interview with Time, he said this:

“You can’t have girls in a guy’s room or guys in a girl’s room,” referring to U.S. rules in the athletes’ village. “No alcohol. You’re there to compete, you’re not there to party. So once swimming is all said and done, if you want to do those kind of things, you have to leave the village and go on your own.”

USA Swimming officials would be 100 percent right to assert that the best parts of their culture run deep.

At the same time, something is clearly amiss when this Lochte situation is directly traceable to alcohol; Michael Phelps was arrested twice on suspicion of DUI before getting himself to rehab; and the Brock Turner sexual assault case at Stanford was tied to alcohol consumption.

Alcohol and a party culture have for years been part of the big-time swim scene, too. Lochte has long been a fixture. A quick Google search will prove the point — just try “Ryan Lochte” and “Las Vegas” and see what turns up.

The alcohol thing is by no means any sort of excuse for anyone’s behavior. It may be offered as explanation. But that absolutely does not elevate it to excuse.

A disclaimer here:

None of this is fun to write. I have known Ryan Lochte for many years. He has always been kind, gracious and courteous to everyone he has met at and around USA Swimming affairs.

He is not anywhere near as dumb as most people believe. That’s his public persona.

Moreover, he has for years been the face of USA Swimming in any number of promotional campaigns. That is because — in addition to being ripped and good looking, obvious positives when you’re doing an ad campaign — he can be, genuinely, a really good guy.

But what Lochte did in Rio was the opposite of what really good guys do.

For one, he robbed any number of worthy athletes of their Olympic spotlight. That’s inexcusable, moments lost forever in time. As Scott Blackmun, the USOC chief executive put it in a news conference as the Games were winding down, referring to Lochte and the three other swimmers, “They let down our athletes. They let down Americans.

“And they really let down our hosts in Rio who did such a wonderful job, and we feel very badly about that.”

Lochte’s conduct has also set in motion any number of inquiries.

One, by the International Olympic Committee, seems entirely out of line. This is not an IOC problem. If Ryan Lochte is their problem, then so are the two Mongolian wrestling coaches who stripped out of their clothes, one to his underwear, in protest of a controversial scoring decision. So, just to be even more obvious, is Patrick Hickey, the Irish member of the IOC’s policy-making executive board, arrested in Rio amid allegations of misconduct with Games tickets; he is being held in a maximum-security Rio prison while his case slowly moves along.

As far as eligibility goes, what to do with Lochte is appropriately a matter for the U.S. Olympic Committee; USA Swimming; and the world swimming body, which goes by the acronym FINA.

The starting baseline, clearly, is six months off. At the least.

Last year, USA Swimming suspended Phelps for six months and kept him away from that summer’s world championships.

US Soccer on Wednesday announced a six-month suspension from the women’s national team for Hope Solo — for being disrespectful in calling the Swedish team a “bunch of cowards” after a Rio loss, or as the federation put it, “conduct that is counter to the organization’s principles.” (So here apparently is something that Lochte and Solo could have in common besides being the leading contenders for the title of America's biggest jerk in Rio -- she was on DWTS, too.)

In Lochte’s case, how meaningful, really, would six months off be? Like zero. Next year’s world championships are almost a full year away.

Whatever the terms of the suspension, in addition Lochte needs to be ordered to do some sort of community service. Say, teaching kids to swim. Or picking up garbage on the side of the highway — which might help make clear to him the elements of privilege that he indisputably has put on display.

If he were smart, Lochte ought to get ahead of this story and get himself to rehab. Like Phelps was, he is at a crossroads: trying to figure out who he really is, and what his identity is, or ought to be, when he’s not swimming for Olympic medals.

If he does rehab and can stay clean and sober for a while, then maybe Lochte deserves a shot at something like "Dancing with the Stars."

Then the narrative changes. Then he becomes a redemption story.

Everyone — again, everyone — makes mistakes. And everyone — this includes Ryan Lochte — deserves a second chance.

What he doesn’t deserve, right now, is the chance to capitalize on bad behavior. That’s just wrong.

First time ever: U.S. women 1-2-3 at Olympic track event

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RIO de JANEIRO — In tribute to everyone’s favorite guessing game Wednesday at the 2016 Olympics, herewith this twist on the Where’s Waldo game:

Where’s Ryan Lochte? Back in the United States! After first making a stop at Olympic Village!

Where are the gold, silver and bronze medals in the women’s 100m hurdles? Just like Ryan Lochte — same!

Left to right, Kristi Castlin, Brianna Rollins, Nia Ali // Getty Images

In the final event on a busy track and field calendar Wednesday at Olympic Stadium, Americans Brianna Rollins, Nia Ali and Kristi Castlin swept the women’s 100m hurdles, Rollins winning in 12.48 seconds.

The sweep by the U.S. women marked a significant first in Olympic history.

To read the rest of this column, please click through to NBCOlympics.com: http://bit.ly/2bojZrh

Limitless and free, this time - Phelps says - for real

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RIO de JANEIRO — If Thursday night’s men’s 200m individual medley final between Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte was the end, as Jim Morrison and the Doors once said, it made — in a riff on what Morrison also told us — for no safety yet a big surprise, a race in which two of the best, ever, pushed each other one final time. Each in his own lane, literally and figuratively, Phelps and Lochte have for years been on a similar quest. Their mission: to push boundaries in search of excellence.

As Morrison put it, to be limitless and free.

After London, these words seemed to apply, and in full measure. Phelps said he was done. He was not. He had unfinished business.

At these Rio 2016 Olympics, a Games he repeatedly has declared will be his last, Phelps on Thursday night staggered the field over the final 100 meters to win the 200m IM, and by nearly two seconds.

To read the rest of this column, please click through to NBCOlympics.com: http://bit.ly/2bay9rT

Swimming as must-see, starring Katie Ledecky

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OMAHA — Katie Ledecky makes swimming must-see. In-person. On TV. Online. Whatever.

Whenever the 19-year-old gets on the blocks, there is the wondrous sense of possibility in the chlorinated air.

It just feels like something might — very well — happen.

Katie Ledecky at the 2016 Trials // Getty Images

On Saturday, in the 800-meter freestyle, an event she has owned since 2012, where at just 15 she won gold at the London Olympics, Ledecky — in predictably awesome fashion — ran away with the event, winning in 8:10.32, flirting for the first half of the race with the — her own — world record.

The victory sends her to Rio to swim in the 200, 400 and 800 freestyles, plus at least one and maybe two relays.

She will be favored in all three individual events. She won all three at the 2015 swimming world championships in Kazan, Russia.

Ledecky would be favored in the 1500 if there were a 1500 at the Olympics for women. There isn’t, an anachronism. Last year, in Kazan, she won that, too.

Reflecting later Saturday on her 800 swim here, Ledecky said, “I think I can take what I did tonight and improve on that in Rio.”

She also said of 8:10.32, “It just didn’t feel like it was anything special.” That time is only the third-best ever.

To prove that she is actually human, Ledecky did not qualify here for the 100 free. She took seventh.

The thing with Ledecky is not just that she wins. That’s almost a given.

In the 100, incidentally, she is getting better each year. Watch out.

Better, just watch.

Each Ledecky swim can make for extraordinary theater.

Same with Michael Phelps, who — in his last-ever swim at the U.S. Trials, and this time he said he means it — came back strong in the second half of the men’s 100 butterfly for the victory in 51-flat. Tom Shields took second, in 51.2, just as he ran second behind Phelps in the 200 fly.

Michael Phelps at his last Trials as a competitor // Getty Images

Maya DiRado, like Phelps and Ledecky a three-time Trials winner // Getty Images

Phelps was exultant when he saw the result, slapping the water.

Later, he told the crowd that he had “choked up a hair” when talking on-camera to NBC just moments after the race, adding, “This country is the best.” He also swore -- vowed -- that 2016 is, really, it. Asked if he might consider 2020, he said, "No. No, no, no, no, no. I’m done. The body is done."

Missy Franklin pulled out another gut-check, finishing second in the women’s 200 backstroke behind Maya DiRado, who quietly won three events here while considerable attention was focused on the likes of Ledecky, Phelps, Ryan Lochte and others — that 200 back and both individual medleys, 200 and 400.

“One of the things I’ve been trying to do this whole year is not compare myself to where I was in 2012,” Franklin would say later, adding, “I came here to be the best of who I am right now, not — not the best of who I was four years ago.”

At these Trials, three swimmers have won three events: Phelps, Ledecky, DiRado.

“This,” DiRado said, “is a dream.”

Phelps, starting in 2004, was the first to make swimming a destination event.

Now, Ledecky.

Which, when you stop to consider that for just a moment, is almost crazy. Unlike track, basketball, beach volleyball or whatever, you can’t see the swimmers’ faces when they compete. There shouldn’t be any emotional get.

And yet with Ledecky, there is.

In the July/August issue of the Atlantic, the last sentence of an article by Meghan O’Rourke about “extreme gymnastics,” which focuses in part on the American champion Simone Biles, makes a point about Biles that applies in equal force to Ledecky:

“When Biles takes the floor mat, what you’ll see—I hope—is not a stressed-out, anorexic little girl, but a 19-year-old athlete soaring through the air, fully enjoying herself.”

Similarly, when Ledecky gets up to race, she’s not there to do anything but immerse herself in the pursuit of seeing just how good she can be.

Fear, pressure, nerves — those are for others.

“I think I still had the same amount of fun I did four years ago,” she would say late Saturday when asked to compare the 2016 and 2012 Trials. “That’s going to be key in Rio. Just enjoying the Olympic experience. It’s an experience like no other.”

It was in 2013 — at the Barcelona worlds — that Ledecky signaled it would be showtime when she stepped on deck.

She won the 400, 800 and 1500, and a gold in the 4x200 relay, too. And set two world records.

That Barcelona 1500, featuring Ledecky, along with Lotte Friis of Denmark and Lauren Boyle of New Zealand, remains a strong candidate for best women’s distance race, ever.

A brief recap:

— At 100 meters, Ledecky was at 58.75, Friis at 59.15. This was the 100-meter world-record pace in 1971 of Australian Shane Gould.

— At 200 meters, Ledecky was 66-hundredths of a second ahead. Now they were racing at the 200-meter pace set by East German Kornelia Ender in the mid-1970s.

From 300 to 1200 meters, Ledecky let Friis set the pace. Then, at 1300 meters, Ledecky dropped the hammer.  With one lap to go, Ledecky was up by 1.07 seconds. After 15 minutes of swimming, she then swam the last 50 meters in 29.47 seconds. In touching in 15:36.53, she lowered the world record, which had stood for six years through the nuttiness of the plastic suits, by six seconds.

Friis also went under the world record, by four seconds. Boyle’s third-place time would have been the best swim of 2012, an Olympic year, and by 21 seconds.

Ledecky has since lowered the 1500 mark four more times. The current mark, set in Kazan: 15:25.48.

Like Phelps, Ledecky swims hard and relentlessly, with a cold fury. That is a compliment.

Like Phelps, too, Ledecky swims extraordinarily high in the water. You don’t have to know the first thing about swimming to know which lane Katie Ledecky is in.

The snippy answer to that, of course, would be the one in which the swimmer is the one way in front.

Sure.

But Ledecky has a distinct, powerful style. Many guy swimmers have said she swims like a guy. That, too, is a compliment.

Off the blocks, Ledecky is lovely to be around. She is smart, funny and has an extraordinary support system — family, coaches, community.

When she gets up to race, however, all that has to wait.

Every Ledecky swim seemingly holds the promise of a record.

Which, she said, is for the ladies and gentlemen of the press — not her — to consider: “You guys can write whatever you want. I appreciate your coverage of the sport … I’m just going to focus on my racing and what my goals are, and anybody else’s expectations don’t really mean that much to me. No offense.”

None taken. So, consider:

Ledecky has not lost internationally in the 800 since 2012.

She won the 800 at the 2013 worlds in Barcelona.

She won the 800 at the major 2014 meet, what’s called the Pan Pacific championships.

She won in Kazan.

The all-time top-10 women’s 800 performances: all, one through 10, Katie Ledecky.

Starting in 2013, meanwhile, Ledecky has set a world record in the 800 every year:

In 2013, she lowered the mark that Rebecca Adlington had set at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, 8:14.1, to 8:13.86.

In 2014, Ledecky went 8:11 flat.

In 2015, 8:07.39.

In January of this year, 8:06.68.

The 800 she swam Saturday is nine seconds faster than she swam at the 2012 Trials: 8:19.78.

On Saturday, after 50 meters, she was already a body length ahead. At 100, almost a full second under world record pace. By 250, 1.42 under. Then she “slowed,” if that is the word, for someone who won the race by nearly 10 seconds.

To underscore how Ledecky is just in a different realm:

Leah Smith’s second-place time, 8:20.18, was the third-fastest time in the world this year. Jessica Ashwood of Australia went 8:18.14 in June.

Asked if she thought the 100 “took more out of you than expected,” Ledecky had this to say:

“Probably. It was a different week, a different set of events than I’ve done in the past and, yeah — you take three rounds of the 100 out, and my schedule gets a little easier in Rio.

“So that’s good.”