Tyler Clary celebrates after winning the gold in the men's 200m backstroke at the London 2012 Olympic Games on Aug. 2, 2012.
AUSTIN, Texas -- It’s not a good idea to bet against Tyler Clary.
Just ask Ryan Lochte, who made a bet with Clary prior to the 400-meter individual medley preliminary race Saturday at the USA Swimming Austin Grand Prix.
Prior to the race, Clary commented to Lochte and Missy Franklin about the 400 IM’s difficulty. So Lochte, who won the gold medal in the event at the London 2012 Olympic Games, bet Clary that he could not complete the race under 4:30 as a “cold turkey,” meaning Clary was not allowed to warm up prior to racing. The loser of the bet would then have to buy the other dinner.
But Clary completed the race in 4:26.91 to become the top qualifier for the finals that evening and win his bet with Lochte.
“(Clary and I) are always just playing around,” Lochte said. “But he made the time, and I was like darn it, but I’ve got to hold up to the bargain, so I’ll take him to McDonald’s or somewhere like that, get him something cheap off the dollar menu.”
But as soon as Clary stepped out of the pool at the event, he wasn’t thinking about winning his bet. He looked over at Lochte and Franklin, who were both laughing at him, and all he could muster to say was, “Ow, that hurt. Never again.” The words were few, but the message was clear: Clary didn’t think going “cold turkey” for the 400 IM for was as funny as Lochte and Franklin did.
“I think most people would agree it’s the toughest event in swimming,” Clary said. “It’s a true test of how in shape you are, so going cold turkey for that is extremely difficult, definitely wasn’t the best idea.”
Later in the evening, when Clary regained his energy, he was able to get his laughs in on Lochte and Franklin. Clary ran behind the television cameras while they were interviewing Franklin after her 200-meter backstroke win and danced along to the Spice Girls “Wannabe” song, which was playing over the speakers at the Lee and Joe Jamail Swimming Center.
“We always joke around with each other,” Franklin said. “I always used to say, if you’re a newbie on the team, and you’re not getting (flak) from Tyler, then something’s wrong. I have four more months until I’m 18, so until then he’s just loading up on the under-adult jokes, like he keeps asking my coach this weekend how much money he’s getting for babysitting me.”
And it wasn’t just outside of the pool where Clary was having fun. In the 400 IM finals that evening, Clary beat his morning time by nearly seven seconds to claim first place in the event. He also claimed second place in the 200 backstroke, the 200 IM and the 200 butterfly over the weekend.
The future appears bright for the 23-year-old from Riverside, Calif. He won a gold medal in the 200 back at the London 2012 Olympic Games and finished fifth in the 200 fly. Now he is looking ahead to the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games and, specifically, winning the gold medal in the 400 IM, the event he feels has been his signature event for the past five years. Clary earned silver medals in the event at the past two world championships, in 2009 and 2011.
Clary also hopes winning a gold medal in that event will translate into more exposure and publicity for him, which he hopes will translate into an auto racing career beginning immediately after the 2016 Games.
“Obviously the first goal is to make the team in that event, then the next is to win the gold, but I have a third goal too,” Clary said. “I’m keeping that one a secret, though, so I can keep myself motivated for these next three and a half years, but there’s a lot of big things I want to do with the 400 IM between now and Rio.
“But the better I do with swimming over the next four years just means it’s going to be that much easier for me to get into racing from a money standpoint,” Clary said. “The better I do, the more exposure there’s going to be, which means I’m more marketable.”
Along with his swimming, Clary has been laying the groundwork for a potential auto racing career since returning home from London. Last September, Clary attended a three-day racing school and earned a spot in the Skip Barber Racing School IndyCar Academy. This weekend, he will travel to Florida to race at Sebring International Raceway. With a win he could earn a sponsored ride in this summer’s Skip Barber Regional Race Series presented by Mazda.
He’s also been taking classes at the University of Michigan, where he was a swimmer for three seasons before going professional, in order to fulfill a promise he made to his parents to finish his education after the London Games.
“Right now the plan is to have an incredible meet in Rio, and then hit the ground running so to speak after the 2016 Olympics as a full-fledged racecar driver,” Clary said. “But three and a half years is a long time, so a lot can happen between now and then.”
Including time to win more bets with his fellow Olympians.