Lochte swam three races in less than two hours at the world championships Friday, coming away with two gold medals and the top time in an event he’s competing in for the first time at a major international meet.
Certainly, this grueling triple was worthy of a “Jeah!”
“It was so painful,” said Lochte, who had the big crowd at the Palau Sant Jordi shouting his nonsensical catchphrase every time he dove in the water. “I don’t want to do that again.”
He won the 200-meter backstroke, posted the fastest time in the semifinals of the 100 butterfly, and put the Americans ahead to stay with a strong leg in the 800 freestyle relay. Not bad for a guy who took a long break after the London Olympics and slacked off on his training while filming a reality television show, “What Would Ryan Lochte Do?”
Apparently, there’s nothing Lochte can’t do, or at least isn’t willing to try, when he dons a swimsuit.
“I wasn’t really thinking about the triple at all,” Lochte said. “I was just focusing on my first race, after that my second, and my third.”
He finished up his big night in the relay, taking over with the Americans trailing both Russia and France after Conor Dwyer’s opening leg. Lochte took care of that, turning in the second-fastest 200 (1:44.98) of anyone in the field. Only Sun Yang of China, one of the world’s greatest freestylers, went faster — and he hadn’t already competed in two races.
“No matter the outcome in the first and second races, I had to pull it together for Team USA,” Lochte said. “When you get together for a relay, you don’t care about the pain, you don’t care about anything like that. You just get up there and put together a good race for the other guys.”
Franklin also had a busy night, but the first race didn’t go as she hoped. The 18-year-old American finished fourth in the 100 free behind gold medalist Cate Campbell of Australia, ending a run of four straight victories in Barcelona.
Franklin shook off the defeat, coming back about 25 minutes later to easily post the top qualifying time in the semifinals of the 200 back. She’ll be a heavy favorite in that race Saturday night — she’s the Olympic champion and world-record holder — which leaves her still on course to at least match Tracy Caulkins of the U.S. and Libby Trickett of Australia as the only women to win five events at worlds.
Caulkins won her five at the 1978 meet in Berlin, while Trickett did it in her home championships at Melbourne in 2007.
“I’m a little bummed,” Franklin said. “I learned a lot, which is the most important thing. I think the 100 free is the event I definitely have the most room to improve on.”
Franklin will have one more event after the backstroke — Sunday’s 400 medley relay — so she’s got a shot at joining Michael Phelps and Mark Spitz as the only swimmers to win as many as six golds at either worlds or the Olympics.