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Lochte nearly walked away from swimming

July 21, 2013
Ryan Lochte

Ryan Lochte

After leaving London with five medals last summer, Ryan Lochte felt he was due for an extended hiatus from the pool.

While in years past Lochte’s customary post-Olympic break lasted weeks, the former Florida swimmer found reason this time to nearly stay away from his sport for good.

Even before he premiered an eight-part reality TV series in April on E!, Lochte soaked in his celebrity status with red carpet events and talk show guest spots following his third trip to the games.

“I don’t know if I want to go through that long of a break again, because I almost didn’t come back this year,” said Lochte, who graduated from UF in 2006. “I almost quit swimming, because I was juggling doing a TV show and doing all these appearances.

“Living that celebrity lifestyle and still trying to train, it’s hard. There’s times I almost quit, because I was having more fun outside the pool than I was in the pool. Usually that was never the case.”

With the 15th FINA World Championships underway in Barcelona, however, Lochte has a refreshed outlook for when swimming events begin on July 28.

Despite his shortened training schedule, the 28-year-old pulled off an impressive double to claim U.S. national championships on June 26 in the 200-meter freestyle and 200 backstroke. He qualified for three other events at worlds, including the 100 butterfly, 200 individual medley and the 4×100 free relay.

“I wasn’t planning on making worlds in that many events, but I’m a racer,” Lochte said. “There’s no two ways about it. When I get on those blocks, I race and that’s what I know how to do the best.”

Joining Lochte in Spain is current Gators junior Elizabeth Beisel, who qualified for both the 200 IM and 400 IM at the world championships.

The pair has trained together since Lochte’s reemergence this summer under Florida coach Gregg Troy with the Gator Swim Club.

“Ryan is a different creature,” Beisel said. “I don’t know how he does it, what he puts his body through. Florida is known as one of the hardest working programs. We pound the yardage and do all these extra things outside the pool and he’s been doing that for 12 years now. I’ve been doing it for three, and I’m like, ‘I don’t know if I can last another three.’”

While Troy has worked with Lochte since his freshman season in 2002, the 13-year UF coach suggested his long-time protégé should train abroad leading up to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“Gainesville’s a small town,” Troy said. “He’s 28 years old, and he can’t go anywhere without someone knowing who he is and doing anything. So I think it growth situation for him.”

Lochte will turn 32 two days before the opening ceremony in Brazil and has the chance to become just the 14th swimmer in Olympic history to win an individual medal after 30.

With Lochte unsure whether his show titled, “What Would Ryan Lochte Do?” will return for a second season, the real question going forward is where he will decide to live when the world championships end on Aug. 4.

“We’ve talked about different places where I can train, looking at the same kind of training that I would get here and just be in a different atmosphere,” Lochte said.

“He’s talked about going to China, he’s talked about going to Japan, Australia, Canada, just outside the U.S. Doing something different and getting away from pretty much everything and just train.”

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