Ryan Lochte finishes U.S. nationals with another big win in Irvine – LA Times

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By Chris Foster
Los Angeles Times

August 8, 2010

Ryan Lochte stood on the podium, bright green sneakers on his feet and glittering gold medal around his neck. It was another reminder that this was his week.

Lochte brushed up for the Pan Pacific Championships by dominating a star-studded field in the 200-meter backstroke at the U.S. national championships Saturday in Irvine.

“I knew I had to get out fast and hold on for dear life,” Lochte said. “Those last 50 yards I could see that everyone was coming and thought, ‘This is going to be bad.’ “

It wasn’t.

Lochte’s time of 1 minute 55.58 seconds was the second-fastest in the world this year. He easily outdistanced defending world champion and rival Aaron Peirsol, who finished second, and Tyler Clary, who finished third. Michael Phelps was fourth.

“I don’t ever want to do that ever again,” Phelps said. “When you get into the pool with guys like Lochte and Peirsol, it’s tough. I mean, Peirsol is one of the best finishers in the world.”

Peirsol put on a burst at the finish Saturday, but there was too much water to make up. Lochte, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist in the 200 backstroke, went out fast and buried the field, finishing .70 seconds ahead of Peirsol.

“He swam that race like you’re supposed to swim it,” Peirsol said. “He basically called our bluff. I didn’t even see him until the second turn, and by then I was too far back to catch up.”

It was a good week’s work for Lochte, who also won the 200 and 400 individual medleys, though he brushed it off as a run-of-the-mill performance.

“I knew my times weren’t going to be spectacular because of the year I have had,” said Lochte, who has battled a groin injury. “I got started late in training and had some bumps in the road. I know next year is going to be faster for me.”

The week has had upheavals.

On Wednesday, David Plummer beat Peirsol in the 100 backstroke. It was Peirsol’s first loss in a final in that event in the national championships since 2000.

On Friday, Phelps’ 38-race winning streak in the 200 individual medley was ended by Lochte. It was Lochte’s first victory against Phelps in a major meet.

Phelps won three events during the meet but acknowledged that he was disappointed with his performances.

“I was setting myself up for this,” Phelps said. “I’m only going to be happy if I’m perfect. If I’m not perfect, I’m going to be hard on myself.”

Phelps said he would have to reestablish his training regimen.

“I knew with the way the year was going that I would be disappointed,” he said. “The only way to change that is to get back to basics in my training schedule.”

On the women’s side, Dana Vollmer swam the second-fastest time in the world this year to win the 100 freestyle (53.94) and Rebecca Soni swam the second-fastest time in the world to win the 200 breaststroke (2:21.60). But it was a remember-me swim by seven-time Olympic medalist Amanda Beard that caught everyone’s eye.

Beard went from sixth to second in the last 50 meters to qualify for the U.S.’ Pan Pacific team … if she can get some child care.

Beard, who has an 11-month-old son, said she would make a decision by Sunday whether to compete in the meet.

“Anyone want to be a nanny?” Beard joked to the crowd after the race, but she later said, “My husband said to go, that this was bonding time for him and his son. I have never been away from him for more than three hours at a time.”

chris.foster@latimes.com