Ryan Lochte’s comeback that much harder with Tokyo Olympics postponement

The Tokyo Olympics were meant to be a comeback and final chance for Ryan Lochte, but their postponement requires some adjustments near the end of the swimmer’s career.

Lochte, 35, was preparing for his final run at the Games after a tumultuous past few years in which he served a suspension for an alcohol-fueled incident with police during the Rio Olympics, another suspension for receiving an IV fluid and spent time in rehab.

Despite the challenges in recent years, Loche told ESPN this week he's 100% in for a run to 2021. "I still have a bunch of goals I want to accomplish in the sport."

The 12-time Olympic medalist returned to competition in mid-2019, and most recently he finished fourth and seventh, respectively, in the 400 individual medley and 200 individual medley at the TYR Pro Swim Series in early March.

“I wouldn’t be back in the water training this hard if I didn’t believe in myself — that I could do it — beating my body up every day,” he told the Des Moines Register before swimming in an event there this month. “It’s going to be a lot harder than it’s ever been in my entire life but I definitely believe I have a shot.”

The decision to postpone the Games because of the coronavirus was a disappointing but understandable one, said Gregg Troy, Lochte's coach. 

Troy coaches Lochte and Caeleb Dressel – who both swam for him at the University of Florida – as part of a post-collegiate group. Troy said the group has been jumping between pools and training in smaller numbers amid the pandemic. 

"We’re working on some alternative plans looking toward '21 where we can make the most of the situation," he said.

As for Lochte's future, Troy said, "He’s dealing with the immediate problem of the moment and he says that was his goal all along, and he’s done pretty well."

After winning his sixth Olympic gold medal in 2016, Lochte and three other swimmers were detained by armed security guards at a gas station in Rio. Lochte initially embellished the story, saying they were robbed at gunpoint, and lost sponsors in the fallout.

A USA TODAY Sports investigation found Lochte’s story was largely true, that the guards drew their weapons and demanded money to pay for damage. USA Swimming suspended him for 10 months.

Lochte drew a 14-month suspension from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for receiving IV fluids in excess amounts without a therapeutic-use exemption.

He also said he spent about six weeks in rehab for a problem with alcohol in 2018.

Despite the tumult, Lochte’s life changed in other ways since his last Olympics. He married Kayla Rae Reid and the couple had two children, Caiden and Liv.

"I've grown dramatically," Lochte told the Des Moines Register. "I've really grown especially in the past three years, four years since 2016. I think I've grown so much. My life has changed so much. I'm a different person than I was. It's just amazing – I'm so happy with everything that's going on in my life that I'm excited to see what's in store for later on in my next chapter of life."

In 2017, Lochte returned to Gainesville, Fla., where he swam for Florida and reunited with Troy, who coached him to 11 medals in his first three Olympics.

When Lochte returned from his suspension in 2019, he did so with the knowledge of how difficult it would be to make his fifth Olympics. The Tokyo postponement will make that more difficult.

"There's days where this old man needs a break from swimming, where I need a couple of days recovery,'' Lochte told USA TODAY Sports last year.

“These swimmers are getting younger, and I’m definitely getting older. But it’s fun. It’s a challenge for me, and I’m always up for a challenge.’’

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