Ryan Lochte hasn’t had any trouble qualify for the swimming Olympic trials in a long time. But actually arriving at the meet? This year, that proved to be difficult.
On Thursday, Ryan Lochte and his teammates attempted to fly from Charlotte, North Carolina to Omaha, Nebraska in an effort to compete at the 2016 swimming Olympic team trials. The meet marks the only chance for swimmers to qualify for Team USA and compete at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
While en route to the Olympic trials, Lochte’s airplane had to be diverted to Kansas City, Missouri, because of an oxygen issue. Instead of arriving in Omaha on schedule, the SwimMac team found themselves driving three hours through the night to arrive in Omaha at midnight.
“It was a long travel day,” Lochte said during a pre-meet press conference on Friday. “We were supposed to get here around 3 p.m. and we didn’t get here until midnight.”
— Ryan Lochte (@RyanLochte) June 21, 2016
The team could have arrived in Omaha a bit earlier, Lochte said, but he and his teammates opted to get a workout in before they left Kansas City. Lochte’s coach, David Marsh, was able to find his swimmers a pool to practice in after calling a local coach, Marsh said.
The training session wasn’t exactly what Ryan and his SwimMac teammates had planned on, but in the end, it all worked out, Marsh said. In fact, the SwimMac head coach event got a laugh out of the entire situation, he said.
“We got there and the lifeguards and folks had no idea who we were,” Marsh said during the press conference. “…One of the lap swimmers says ‘Gosh, they’re moving through the water awfully fast!’ And I’m like ‘Yeah, they’re pretty good.'”
In the end, the diversion turned out to be a good thing, Lochte and Marsh said, as it helped remind the athletes that it’s important to prepare for the worst. In order to get from Kansas City to Omaha, the team rented two vehicles, Marsh said.
“I think it was kind of good because it got us out of our element. We weren’t expecting it,” Lochte said during the press conference. “David is always saying to us throughout the year ‘Prepare yourself for the worst.’ And that’s just one thing that we were able to overcome, so now we can really get ready for the next couple of days.”
Marsh echoed Ryan Lochte’s comments, saying that the unexpected stop allowed the athletes some time for good conversation and distraction on the way to a meet that could be, for some, the biggest meet of their lives.
“It will happen more in Brazil than in most Olympics — things are going to happen that you just need to be ready for, and you need to be relaxed and roll with things,” Marsh said during the press conference. “We’ve done that and the guys looked good in the water this morning, so we’re up and going.”
Luckily for Lochte, the team arrived in Omaha a few days ahead of the beginning of the Olympic swim trials. The timing was important because, as Lochte asserted Friday, he will definitely swim the 400-meter individual medley in an effort to defend the Olympic gold medal he won at the 2012 Olympic Games. The 400 IM is the first event of the Olympic swimming trials.
Should Lochte qualify for the 2016 Olympics, he will be headed to the biggest swim meet in the world for the fourth time. To date, the 31-year-old swimmer has earned 11 Olympic medals, including five gold medals.
The 2016 U.S. swimming Olympic trials begin Sunday and run through July 3. In each event, the top two finishers will earn a spot on the Olympic team. Additionally, the top six swimmers in the 100- and 200-meter freestyle events will earn relay spots.
All sessions of the Olympic swimming trials will air on either NBC or NBC Sports. Find a full schedule, including when you can watch Ryan Lochte swim, here.
[Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images]