By Mike Gustafson//Contributor | Wednesday, August 2, 2017
Catch the U.S. Open streaming live Aug. 2 - 6 at usaswimming.org.
Last week at the 2017 FINA World Championships in Budapest, Chase Kalisz gave the United States its 8th-straight 200 IM victory in major international competition. He continued the longstanding sprint IM legacy of two legendary swimmers — Michael Phelps, who began the streak back at the 2003 World Championships, and Ryan Lochte, who has also won multiple 200 IM international titles. Since 2003, either Phelps or Lochte has successfully defended his respective 200 IM title; now, Kalisz continues the remarkable international IM success.
However, this week at the U.S. Open in New York, one of those two legendary IM swimmers returns to the competition pool. Ryan Lochte, after serving a 10-month suspension following the Rio Olympics, is scheduled to compete once more. And his comeback marks an interesting potential showdown in the 200 IM between Kalisz, the new kid on the sprint-IM block, and Lochte, who has won so many international titles throughout his career.
Lochte, not in top training form after his girlfriend had a baby, might not dazzle this week. He is scheduled to compete in the 200 IM, but he may be well off his best-ever times. So not much should be read in his performances. In an earlier interview with USA Swimming, Lochte’s said to have been training infrequently. Even so, that 200 IM is, for me, the U.S. Open’s Can’t Miss Race. Not because Lochte will break any national or world records. And not because he’ll swim a faster time than Kalisz did last week at the World Championships.
Lochte’s return to the competition pool signals what could be one of the best races in the coming years, should Lochte return to top form. Kalisz versus Lochte in that 200 IM could be as exciting as any other. But this is also all speculative; for the immediate future, Kalisz is the reigning World Champion, and Lochte, now a father, has to now prove he can keep up with the younger generation.
Even more immediate: Lochte will have another challenger this week. 18-year-old Michael Andrew is scheduled to race in the 200 IM. Andrew, as many swim fans know, is one of the most promising up-and-coming swimmers in years. With Phelps’ retirement, the window for another roster spot in that sprint IM is there. Andrew will surely test the waters at this U.S. Open. With one solid performance and a victory over Lochte, you could bet that Andrew will continue down the sprint IM path all the way to 2020.
I’m curious, like many swim fans, to see how Lochte performs this week. Even though he has said he is not in top form, Lochte does have a talent to rise to the occasion and race. Could Michael Andrew and others give him that occasion?
It’s a clash between generations: The legendary swimmer against the next crop of IMers. Though the world title is already secure, this summer’s racing is not yet over. Lochte’s return to the pool will surely pique the interest of many, and there is no more interesting event than his return in the 200 IM.
Don’t miss it.
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