OMAHA — Not that Missy Franklin needed a reminder of the perils that can befall a reigning Olympic champion at the U.S. trials, but she got one Sunday night when Ryan Lochte was upset in the first finals race of the eight-day event.
Lochte, a five-time Olympic champion who won the 400-meter individual medley at the 2012 London Games, failed to make the team in that event Sunday after he pulled a groin muscle in his morning heat and limped to third place in the evening session. Lochte was impaired enough that he considered pulling out of the evening race.
“But it’s the Olympic Trials,” said Lochte, 31. “If I had a broken leg, I’d still go out there and swim. I went out there. I did my best. It wasn’t enough.”
Chase Kalisz, who grew up training with Michael Phelps in Baltimore under coach Bob Bowman, found himself in the stunning position of winning the race to make his first Olympic team. Finishing second to claim the other spot on the team was Jay Litherland, 20, who swims for the University of Georgia.
Lochte built up a lead on the butterfly and held it through the backstroke but slowed noticeably on the breaststroke, and that’s where Kalisz passed him. Kalisz said he didn’t know Lochte was injured.
“I don’t have a fly and backstroke like him, so I’ve got to play to my strengths,” said Kalisz, 22. “I knew I needed to build the first 50 breaststroke and just hammer it as hard as I could coming down on the 150. Honestly, the whole thing went by so fast, I feel like I’m in a different reality right now. I can’t begin to explain what I’m feeling.”
Lochte said he went out faster than he would have liked in the fly and backstroke because he knew the injury would cost him leg power in the breaststroke. He said he will get treatment and cortisone shots to help him through the rest of the meet.
Phelps is “like a brother” to Kalisz, and when Phelps congratulated him for making the Olympic team it was “a very emotional moment.” When Kalisz was a young boy, he and mischievous friends would find Phelps’ car when he was at a meet and spin its spinning hubcaps.
“He would come out after prelims and catch us and set off his car alarm,” Kalisz said. “We’d freak out and run. I’d ask him for six autographs a day back then.”
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