Swim Poll of the Week: 35% Think Ryan Lochte Will Make His Fifth Olympic Team

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This is the Swim Poll of the Week for Wednesday June 9, 2021, sponsored by Strechcordz Swim Training Products. In our last poll, we wanted to know: Do you think Ryan Lochte will make his fifth Olympic team?

Had the Tokyo Olympics gone off as scheduled in 2020, Ryan Lochte would have been 35 during the Games and turned 36 the day after swimming was concluded. In 2021, Lochte will be 36 during Olympic swimming, with his 37th birthday approaching. If he were to qualify for the Olympics, he would be the oldest male swimmer to ever represent the United States. The only other 36-year-old man to swim for the U.S. at the Olympics was Jason Lezak, who was still three months shy of his 37th birthday when he swam one prelims relay at the 2012 Olympics in London.

Already, Lochte is the oldest man to compete in a distance longer than a 100 at the Olympics, from his 2016 Games appearance. Typically, swimmers gravitate away from long, grueling events and towards sprints as they get older, but Lochte never established himself as a dominant force in any 100-meter races. So that meant the old standby events, and in recent years, it’s only been in the 200 IM that Lochte has been able to gain any traction.

Lochte has competed just a handful of times since the COVID pandemic shut down the country in March 2020. On one of those first occasions, at the U.S. Open in November 2020, Lochte told the Associated Press, “This is probably going to go down as the worst meet that I’ve ever had.” He added, “When I get back home, I’m going to start turning it up again,” implying that his training still was not at the level he desired.

In the 200 IM, he has only broken 2:00 once, swimming a 1:59.72 in March. He swam a 2:00.90 in prelims of the event at the Mission Viejo Pro Series meet last week, good for the third-fastest qualifying time, and then, in his final tune-up for Olympic Trials, Lochte swam a 2:01.28 in the prelims at the Atlanta Classic before again scratching finals.

In other events, Lochte has not posted any times that would indicate he can get close to Olympic qualification. He has been a member of the U.S. men’s 800 free relay at four straight Olympics, but he has not broken 1:50 in the 200 free this season, so a run at an 800 free relay berth for the Olympics seems unlikely. So as far as Lochte and Tokyo, it’s 200 IM or bust.

And at the same time as Lochte has struggled, his competition in the 200 IM has flourished. Michael Andrew has the top time in the country in the 200 IM this year with his astounding 1:56.84 from the TYR Pro Swim Series in Indianapolis, and at the Atlanta Classic, 2017 world champion Chase Kalisz won the 200 IM in 1:57.52, and Andrew Seliskar finished second in 1:58.06. Carson Foster, meanwhile, swam a 1:58.27 at the Longhorn Aquatics Elite Invite, and Trenton JulianKieran SmithAbrahm DeVine and Jake Foster all own faster season-best times than Lochte.

What does Lochte have in the tank? He’s still the world record-holder at 1:54.00, but any time close to that realm is implausible. Will he be in the 1:55-range by Trials? Possible, but recent results suggest that’s unlikely. 1:56? More reasonable, but given the impressive 200 IM times posted in recent weeks around the United States, it’s unlikely that would be sufficient to qualify for Tokyo.

Historically, Phelps and Lochte have completely dominated the 200 IM, and the two men combine to hold the 16 fastest performances in history. But the 1:55 range has become much more crowded in recent years. Kalisz has been as quick as 1:55.40 (good for sixth-fastest all-time in the event). Andrew has shown promise but has yet to put together a world-classg 200 IM at a major meet. Can another man from that crowd of young IMers break through? The powers-that-be in American swimming should hope so: producing just one world-class 200 IM in more than a decade would be a lousy outcome.

Lochte, despite all his issues of the past several years, could still bolster his legacy one more time and qualify for yet another Olympics. He could swim his fastest performance since 2015, maybe break into that 1:55-range and earns himself one last Olympic hurrah. That would be a feat worthy of celebration.

But if Lochte can only manage an effort in the 1:56-high or 1:57-low range and that is sufficient to qualify for Tokyo, that would mean no young swimmer had stepped up and posted a truly Olympic-worthy performance. As magnificent an accomplishment as it would be to see Lochte qualify for his fifth Olympics, such an outcome would represent an unsatisfactory result for the world’s premier swimming nation, if the past-his-prime 36-year-old can defeat America’s rising talent to qualify for Tokyo.

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Do you think Ryan Lochte will make the 2021 Olympic team?

Yes – 35%

No – 65%


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