After serving a 14-month suspension from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for incriminating himself on Instagram, Ryan Lochte is on the brink of qualifying for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo at age 36.
The 12-time Olympic medalist won the 200-meter individual medley on the last day of the U.S. Championships on Sunday.
With a time of 1 minute, 57.75 seconds, Lochte topped second-place Shaine Casas by more than second for his 27th national title and his first since 2014. This race counts toward qualifying for the national team, and he was able to shave .12 seconds off his time at a time trial on Wednesday.
Lochte’s time is the 11th-fastest in the world and fourth-fastest among Americans. Notably, none of the three swimmers ahead of him were competing against him, but a comeback at his age is nearly unprecedented.
If Lochte makes the 2020 games, he would be the third-oldest U.S. swimmer to ever compete in an individual event. Only Edgar Adams (36 in 1904) and Dara Torres (41 in 2008) made it at an older age. As another comparison, Lochte is one year older than Michael Phelps, who retired after the 2012 Games, only to come back and retire once more after 2016.
To make it to Tokyo, Lochte will have to finish in the top two at the Olympic Trials next June, where he'll have to outpace fellow Americans Michael Andrew, Abrahm Devine and Chase Kalisz.
Given all that Lochte’s had to battle back from — going through rehab and getting back into top shape with two children — it’s quite possible that he’ll build on these times. He finished fifth at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro games with a time of 1:57:47.
The 200m medley represents the only event in which Lochte has a shot at making the Olympics, since his other performances left more to be desired. He finished fourth in the C final of the 100m butterfly, was scratched in the B final of the 100m backstroke and finished 37th in 200m freestyle preliminaries.
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