Nearly a year after the Rio Games and the false robbery video tape incident, Ryan Lochte is set to make his return to competition on Saturday.
EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — Ryan Lochte will swim in the U.S. Open Saturday, his first USA Swimming meet since coming off a 10-month suspension for that notorious gas station incident at last summer’s Rio Games.
All of that seemed a long time ago as Lochte signed hundreds of autographs and posed for hundreds of photos for an hour and 45 minutes late Friday afternoon — and into early evening — outside the Nassau County Aquatics Center.
“A bunch of kids showed up and the love and support I see on a daily basis through social media and on the streets, it’s just, I’m definitely blessed,” he told a gaggle of reporters and cameramen after the signing. “One of the reasons I’m still swimming is those fans.”
Lochte is entered in Saturday’s 100-meter backstroke and Sunday’s 200-meter individual medley. He’s by far the biggest name at the U.S. Open because most national team members competed in the recent world championships in Budapest. He is 33 — and will be 36 in 2020, when he intends to make a run at the Tokyo Games.
One questioner asked Lochte about trying for his fourth Olympics. “Uh, I’m trying for my fifth,” Lochte said with a grin. He won his 12th Olympic medal at Rio in his fourth Games, but said he’d lost his love for swimming after his third Olympics in London.
“Honestly, after 2012 I lost the love and passion for the sport of swimming,” he said. “And I just kind of stuck into it just to make the Olympic team. But I was drained, mentally and physically. The break that I’ve had this year, and with my new son being born, Caiden, I found a new love for the sport.”
Lochte raced in April at the U.S. Masters spring nationals, which is not a USA Swimming-sanctioned event. His suspension ended on July 1. He was entered in a meet in July but withdrew because he hadn’t had much time to train after Caiden’s birth on June 8.
“Anything I do from here on out in the sport of swimming, it’s going to be for him,” Lochte said. “And that’s what I said, I posted it a while ago, 2020 is for Caiden. And the spark that is ignited in me, I’ve never felt before. And I’ve never had this much passion for the sport of swimming. And I’m just excited to see what I can do.”
Another reporter told Lochte how excited Long Island is to have a world-class swimmer here.
“I used to be a world-class swimmer,” Lochte said. “I’m starting back at the bottom. I’m starting strictly from ground zero. I haven’t really been training much this year, then taking care of my family first. But this meet, it’s a starting point on where I need to go.”