Even before Ryan Lochte's Rio Olympics experience went from mediocre to catastrophic, it was difficult to envision a scenario in which he would be back in the pool for the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
But that possibility certainly appears to be on the six-time gold medalist's mind as he returns to racing this weekend for the first time since last summer. It's a minor meet in Riverside, Calif., that doesn't fall under the auspices of his 10-month ban from USA Swimming activities, but Lochte called it "a good starting point" in a potential return.
In a lengthy interview with the Los Angeles Times, Lochte called the period immediately after the Rio Olympics "the lowest low of my entire life.”
Lochte, of course, was at the center of an international scandal after he said he and three other swimmers were robbed by armed men posing as police officers after a night spent partying following the final swimming events in Rio. Authorities quickly called the story into question and video evidence showed the claim was untrue. While Lochte headed home to the U.S. immediately, it took some diplomatic maneuvering to persuade angry Brazilian officials to allow the other swimmers involved to leave the country.
In addition to losing face, Lochte saw several corporate sponsors pull out of deals after the story dominated headlines worldwide for days. But he has slowly gotten his life back on track in the ensuing months, thanks in large part to significant developments out of the pool.
He got engaged to girlfriend Kayla Rae Reid, and she is due to give birth soon. The thought of being able to compete in front of his son — no doubt driven by longtime rival Michael Phelps doing the same with newborn son Boomer last year — might be enough for Lochte to rededicate himself to swimming in an effort to make one last run at the Olympics.
“After Rio I could have thrown in the towel,” he told the Times. “But what would I be teaching my kid? That it’s OK to give up?”
While Lochte had a disappointing individual showing in the pool last summer and will be 36 when Tokyo rolls around, he might just have found the motivation to try to end his career on a more positive note.