In the water, Lochte shines brightly

  • Pin It
Conor Dwyer of Winnetka (l) and Ryan Lochte of the USA celebrate after their legs on the winning 4 x 200 free relay at the World Championships in Barcelona.  (Clive Rose / Getty Images)

Conor Dwyer of Winnetka (l) and Ryan Lochte of the USA celebrate after their legs on the winning 4 x 200 free relay at the World Championships in Barcelona. (Clive Rose / Getty Images / August 2, 2013)

Since the London Olympics, Ryan Lochte has seemed bent on proving he is not the brightest bulb in the chandelier.

Take his reality TV show, “What Would Ryan Lochte Do?” (Please).

This is what a Washington Post reviewer said about it:

“Despite his beauty, his 11 Olympic medals, his dumb-as-hair-edness, his impressive abs, Ryan Lochte seems not destined to become The Next Big Thing in reality TV.”

And that was among the kinder reviews.

If there ever was a person who valued fluff over substance, it is he: Mister “Jeah” (which he pointed out on the show is pronounced “Gee-ah”) decked out in beyond-silly shoes.

Get Lochte in a pool, though, and all that rolls off him like water off a swimmer’s back, revealing the one unquestionably substantial thing about the guy.

He is a remarkable swimmer — tactically, physically and mentally.

That was evident once more Friday night in Barcelona, one day before his 29th birthday, when Lochte swam three races at the world championships in barely 90 minutes, with these results:

First, gold medal in the 200-meter backstroke, his third world title in that event, winning wire-to-wire in a time of 1 minute, 53.79 seconds.

“The 200 back is probably one of the hardest events on your legs,” he said.

Then, about an hour later, a personal best in the semifinals of the 100 butterfly (51.48), making him the fastest qualifier for Saturday’s final in an event he has swum infrequently and, he said, never previously in a big international meet.

“I don’t know where that came from,” he said.

Finally, after another half-hour, the leg that all but assured a team of Winnetka’s Conor Dwyer, Lochte, Charles Houchin and Ricky Berens would go on to gold in the 4 x 200-meter freestyle. Lochte’s second-leg split, 1:44.98, was second fastest of 32 men in the final, beaten only by China’s Sun Yang (1:43.16), who swam just one race Friday night.

“My entire body is hurting,” Lochte. “I’m glad I was able to overcome the triple.”

Lochte now has three gold medals at this meet and 15 for his career at long-course worlds, second only to Michael Phelps’ 33.

But, according to research done by my colleague Nick Zaccardi of NBC Sports, Phelps never had to swim three events on the same night of an Olympics or worlds.

“The triple was very impressive,” said Dwyer, who left the U.S. a close third after a 1:45.76 lead leg. “I knew as soon as he (Lochte) won the 200 back, he’d be fine.

“That 1:44 goes to show how good a swimmer he is. He is one of the best of all time.”

Missy Franklin had two more swims Friday and missed a medal for the first time in her five finals. With a time of 53.47, Franklin was fourth in the 100 free, her weakest event. That left her .05 from a podium topped by Aussie Cate Campbell (52.34).

Franklin, who has four golds, came back to win her semifinal heat of the 200 backstroke. She still has a chance to be the only woman with six gold medals in a single worlds.

Lochte has been in three Olympics (five golds) and five long-course worlds. He was the top male swimmer at the 2011 worlds, with five gold medals. That led many to think he would surpass Phelps at the 2012 Olympics, but it did not happen, as Lochte left London with two golds to Phelps’ four.

The way Lochte swam much of this season, it seemed his mind was focused more on the TV show that, sadly, is supposed to follow his life until the 2016 Olympics. When he was fourth in his first individual race at worlds, the 200 free, some critics were as quick to jump on his swimming performances as they had been on a TV show highlighting what ABC News called “his, well, uncluttered mind.”

Friday, when he needed to put mind over matter in the pool, Lochte showed critics of his swimming they were all wet.

phersh@tribune.com

Twitter @olyphil


  • Pin It