Ryan Lochte will jump back into the pool this weekend with his SwimMAC Carolina team at a meet in Georgia, testing his problematic left knee and competing against longtime rival Michael Phelps.
Lochte has been training in Charlotte since last year under SwimMAC coach David Marsh. He has barely raced in competition because he tore a ligament in his left knee and sprained another in November when an excited teenage fan rushed at him during a trip to Florida. Lochte caught her, but his knee then slammed into a curb.
“It’s probably 92, 93 percent,” Lochte said Wednesday. “It’s not fully there, but I can do everything in the water – without pain – unless I overdo it. Then it starts getting a little aggravated.”
Phelps, who has won more Olympic medals than anyone (22) and recently began a comeback from a brief retirement, competed against Lochte at a meet in Arizona in April.
They were supposed to go at it again in the Charlotte Grand Prix in May, but while Phelps swam in Charlotte, Lochte had to skip the meet because he had re-injured his knee in the Arizona meet.
“I feel like I haven’t raced in forever,” Lochte said. “I want to get some racing under my belt, and this will be a perfect meet in Georgia because a lot of fast people will be there and they are going to push me. I’m going to see what my knee can handle in a race atmosphere.”
Lochte, an 11-time Olympic medalist, will test his knee thoroughly at the Bulldog Grand Slam in Athens, Ga. He is scheduled to swim three events against his old friend and rival Phelps and has also entered four others.
“I expect some very strong swims from Ryan,” Marsh said. “And this will create some excitement with Ryan and Michael competing again – they always bring out the best in each other. The big question to me for Ryan is can he race lots of races? That’s always been his forte.”
SwimMAC Carolina will send more than 30 swimmers to Georgia to compete with Phelps’ North Baltimore Aquatic Club and several other high-profile teams from the eastern half of the U.S.
Among those also competing for SwimMAC will be Nick Thoman, an Olympic medalist who is coming off a shoulder injury and will swim only the 100 backstroke in this meet.
Cullen Jones, the Charlottean who is a former N.C. State standout and four-time Olympic medalist, has had a difficult season so far. He needs a good meet in Georgia.
“It’s a big test for Cullen,” Marsh said. “He struggled in some European meets, and really for his own mindset he needs to take another step forward to convince himself he’s within range of competing with the big guys at nationals later this summer.”