Everything about Ryan Lochte’s return to USA Swimming at the U.S. Open at the Nassau County Aquatic Center has been loud.
The fanfare. The cameras. The competition. Even Lochte’s blue and purple swim trunks with a floral pattern invited attention to the 33-year-old Olympian making a comeback from a 10-month suspension.
His performance, by his own admission, was satisfying with how much focus he’s put on family and how little he’s put on training.
Lochte placed fifth with a time of 55.16 seconds in the 100-meter backstroke final on Saturday.
“From the lack of training that I’ve done, I mean I swim once or twice a week, for that time, it’s a good starting point,” said the 12-time Olympic medalist. “That’s what I wanted to do coming into this meet is just get a starting point and build off from there. I knew I wasn’t going to be fast, at all.”
After signing autographs for nearly two hours Friday afternoon, Lochte said the reception from fans has been warm.
Lochte was suspended for filing a false police report after claiming he was robbed at gunpoint while in Rio de Janeiro at the 2016 Olympics. Those charges were dropped in July.
“Whatever happened, it happened in the past,” he said. “I’m a human. I made a mistake and I learned from it, just like everyone else, and I moved on from it. I bettered myself. I’ve settled down.”
Part of how he’s settled is because of his fiancé, former Playboy Playmate Kayla Rae Reid, and his two-month-old son Caiden who were joined by Lochte’s parents at the Aquatic Center for his first USA Swimming race since last year.
With the goal of swimming in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Lochte has used his son’s birth as motivation to reach his fifth Games.
“I think the whole race I was thinking about him, not even thinking about the race,” Lochte said. “Having him there, this is his first race that he got to see his dad do.”
Two-time Olympian Arkady Vyatchanin of Russia won the 100 backstroke in 53.91 seconds, and he was impressed with Lochte’s performance.
“Actually, that was pretty fast from what he was telling me, that he’s just once or twice a week in the pool,” he said. “That’s quite fast for that sort of training.”
Sunday’s 200-meter individual medley will be a barometer of Lochte’s swimming shape, as he’s won two silver medals and a bronze medal in that event at the Olympics.
“The 200 IM will be an indicator of how bad of shape (I’m in),” he said. “I’m just going to go out there and race tough and see what happens.”
And even though everything about Lochte’s return to the pool has been loud, he’s quietly going about his business with hopes of setting the bar for his big return.