IRVINE, Calif. – A week after celebrating his 30th birthday, Ryan Lochte held off Michael Phelps to win the 200-meter individual medley, but he still wasn’t the oldest winner on the last day of the 2014 Phillips 66 National Championships.
That honor belonged to 33-year-old Anthony Ervin, the most senior swimmer in the meet, who won the 50-meter freestyle.
“Ryan, Happy Birthday,” Ervin relayed through reporters. “If you’re out there listening to this, 30 is way better than 29.”
Actually, 30-year-old Lochte was only .05 better than 29-year-old Phelps, posting a time of 1 minute, 56.50 seconds to Phelps’ 1:56.55.
Both were happy with their times as they continue their comebacks: Phelps after taking about a year and a half off and Lochte after undergoing major knee surgery.
Lochte, the world record holder in the 200 IM, captured his first individual title of the meet after placing second in the 100 freestyle, third in the 200 backstroke and fifth in the 100 butterfly. Phelps, however, was 0-for-4. The 18-time Olympic gold medalist was second in the 100 fly, sixth in the 100 back and seventh in the 100 freestyle.
“I felt good coming home,” Phelps said. “I actually didn’t feel like it was as painful as some of the 100s were, so I’m a lot happier with finishing like that than finishing with having some of the sub-par performances that I’ve had throughout the finals sessions in this meet.”
Here are other highlights from the pool on Sunday as the 60-member U.S. team was officially named for the Pan Pacific Championships later this month in Gold Coast, Australia:
|Ryan Lochte shows off his shoes from the Jeremy Scott collection at the 2014 Phillips 66 National Championships at the Woollett Aquatic Center on Aug. 10, 2014 in Irvine, California.
Getting his kicks: Lochte, a well-known footwear aficionado, strode onto the pool deck wearing iridescent shoes with wings tied into the laces. The shoes are from the Jeremy Scott collection. “You always got to save the best for last,” said Lochte. “I mean look at them. They’ve got wings on. They’re the best shoes ever. I love shoes. I think this adds up to 189 pairs now.” Though he likes to surprise people with his colorful shoe choices, Lochte may have to don these again. “They’re helping me out,” he said. “I should have worn them all week.” Because Lochte hasn’t done as much training as usual due to his knee injury, he said his “confidence was low” coming into the meet. “This is really good for me,” Lochte said, “getting a win under my belt at this meet because it was hard throughout this whole year.”
Sigh of relief: Ervin started swimming the “splash and dash” 50 free without taking a breath in 2000, the year he tied for the Olympic gold medal with Gary Hall, Jr. When he touched the wall Sunday, he said he breathed “a sigh of relief. I just ‘no-breathed’ it and all I did was breathe out — I didn’t even take a breath,” Ervin said. “I was just like, ‘Yes!’” Ervin won his first national title in the 50 in 2001 and — after taking a long break from swimming — he didn’t win another until he touched the wall at 21.55 seconds. Nathan Adrian, who won the 100 free on Thursday and five of the previous six 50-meter races at nationals, was second in 21.69. Cullen Jones, the Olympic silver medalist, was third in 21.83. Jones, by the way, turned 30 in February and made the Pan Pac team with his performance. Ervin had been frustrated after placing fifth in the 100 freestyle, which wasn’t good enough to qualify for the Pan Pac roster. Performances at nationals as well as Pan Pacs will determine the 2015 World Championships team. “I was kind of beating myself over the head because the body was there, but I made poor decisions in that race,” Ervin said. “My brain got in the way.” After much “gnashing of teeth,” he was ready for the 50. He said that coming into the meet, his future was “kind of hazy,” but now his plans are more concrete since he made the team. “I’ve got my heels dug in like a stubborn mule at this point,” Ervin said, “so we’ll see if I can keep it going for another couple of years.” The winner of the women’s 50, Simone Manuel, is only 18. Her time was 24.56. Olympic gold medalist Natalie Coughlin, the oldest woman in the meet at age 31, fell short in her bid to make a record-tying fifth Pan Pac team. She was sixth in 24.97 seconds. So is it better in the 50 to be old or young? “The jury’s out,” Ervin said. “Sometimes I feel really old, but then sometimes I surprise myself like tonight.”
Fast friends: Manuel and fellow teenager Katie Ledecky were roommates last year at the world championships in Barcelona. While Manuel, who was also the runner-up in the 100 freestyle, focuses on sprints, Ledecky holds the world record in the 400-, 800- and 1,500-meter freestyles and was the national champion in the 200. Ledecky also had the 13th fastest time in the 100 free preliminaries. “We’re pretty close,” Manuel said. “She always keeps me calm. We just have a good time with each other and she always keeps me chill and encourages me, so I think that’s very helpful to have someone like that around you all the time.” With Manuel living in Texas and Ledecky in Maryland, they keep up with each other through texting and Snapchat. Manuel said she was teasing Ledecky before the race, “Do you want to do this 50 free as a relay? I’m pretty sure we’d get a world record in it.” However, Manuel said she can’t imagine doing a 1,500. “You can’t make your body do something that it’s not capable of doing,” she said, adding, “She can move down to the 100. I don’t mind a little friendly competition.” Ledecky decided to take the day off Sunday to go back into training. In her absence, Katy Campbell won the 1,500 in 16 minutes, 17.59 seconds, well off Ledecky’s top time of 15:34.23. Michael McBroom won his second event of the meet, capturing the 800 freestyle in 7:49.66.
Little sister takes the spotlight: When Melanie Margalis was born, her brother Robert was 10 years old and already a swimmer. He went on to make world championships teams and win Pan American Games medals. “I was always Robert’s little sister no matter what,” said Melanie, 22, “and it’s nice that I’m finally making a name for my own.” Margalis won the 200-meter individual medley with a personal best time of 2:10.20 to make her first major national team with Robert in the stands. “I looked up and waved at him before and after the race,” she said. “He was pretty excited, it looked like.” She said Robert advised her to swim in some European meets this summer, but doesn’t load her down with advice. “He kind of just like lets me go on my own,” she said. “He says, ‘Good luck’ and ‘Good job,’ and I know he’s really excited for me, but he lets me lead my own path. “I think that he kind of feels like I’m ready at this point on my own.” Legendary swimmer Shirley Babashoff presented the 200 IM finalists with their medals.
Horse names: Phelps and his coach, Bob Bowman, recently acquired a racehorse they named “Water Cube” after the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games venue where Phelps won eight gold medals. Suffice it to say their next horse won’t be named William Woollett after the Irvine venue. “I don’t know what the next horse will be named,” Bowman said. “I just saw that the first horse by Animal Kingdom was called Tumble Turn. That kind of makes me mad. I like that one. I’m trying to find swimming names.” Bowman and Phelps have another thoroughbred named “By a Hundredth,” which commemorates Phelps’ victory over Milorad Cavic in the 100 fly in Beijing.