Swimming stars and Olympic gold medalists Missy Franklin, left, and Ryan Lochte, right, both clocked in some of the best times this year when they each won the 200m freestyle and the 200m backstroke at the U.S. National Championships.
Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin gave swimming fans a double dose of dominance Wednesday night.
And it came with plenty of pain.
America's two biggest active stars in the pool each won the 200-meter freestyle, then returned less than 90 minutes later to take the U.S. national championship in the 200 backstroke — all with times that ranked among the five fastest in the world this year. It was quite a feat for the 18-year-old soon-to-be college freshman from Colorado and the 28-year-old three-time Olympian from Florida still working to get back in world-class shape.
"I don't want to go through that pain again. As I get older, it doesn't get any easier," Lochte said. "But I like a challenge and love to race."
Lochte has shown his mettle dozens of times before and has relied on training regimens that don't always follow standard operating procedure.
At times, it has made Lochte look bad. But when it comes time to race in the big meets, he has always been ready.
This week has been no different. At the IUPUI Natatoriums, Lochte clinched a spot on the men's world championship team by finishing fourth in the 100 freestyle, hardly his best event. Each race winner and the top four finishers in the relay events all earn automatic spots on the world championship team that will compete in Barcelona starting next month.
On Wednesday, Lochte put on an impressive show.
The five-time Olympic gold medalist held off a late charge from Olympic teammate Conor Dwyer to win the 200 free in 1 minute, 45.97 seconds — the fifth fastest time in the world this year. Dwyer was second in 1:46.25, sixth in the world. Virginia's Matt McLean was third in 1:46.78.
Twelve heats later, Lochte was back on the starting block for the 200 back and this time, he was even better.
Lochte finished in 1:55.16, the third fastest time in the world this season, beating the reigning Olympic champion in the event, Tyler Clary, to the wall. Clary was second in 1:55.58 while Ryan Murphy was third in in 1:56.37. Like Lochte, Clary is also trying to get back in shape after taking a post-Olympic break.
"To give you a point of reference, at the Olympics, I was about 190 pounds," Clary said. "Then I had a very exciting, fun and playful three months off and I came back at a hefty 220 pounds."
He didn't look anywhere near that heavy Wednesday.
But the double hurt just as much for Franklin.
After rallying in the final 50 meters to beat three Olympic gold medalists in the 100 free final Tuesday, Franklin didn't let anyone get close to her Wednesday.
She led from wire-to-wire in the 200 free, finishing in 1:55.46 — just 0.08 seconds off this year's world best set by Camille Muffat of France. Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky was second in 1:57.63, while another Olympic gold medalist, Shannon Vreeland, was third in 1:58.13.
All Franklin had to do to make it a sweep was take control of the 200 back, an event that she won at the London Games last summer and holds the world-record in.
It looked easy.
Franklin not only produced the world's fastest time of the year, 2:05.68, she set a new U.S. Open long course record. Elizabeth Pelton, who swims for the University of California where Franklin will enroll in the fall, was second in 2:06.29 — the world's second-fastest time of the year.
"That hurt a lot," Franklin told the crowd after finishing the race. "But I love doing the double. It's so energizing."
While Lochte and Franklin stole the headlines, Kevin Cordes came closest to making the biggest splash yet in a meet that runs through Saturday night.
In a rare race that featured no Olympians, the men's 200 breaststroke, the crowd roared for the Illinois native who was on world-record pace through the first 150 meters. Eventually, he faded in the final 50 and failed to break Akihiro Yamaguchi's world record, but still posted this season's world best time in the event: 2:08.34. BJ Johnson was second in 2:10.09 and Nicolas Fink was third in 2:10.97.
"That last 50 was pretty bad, but the rest was pretty good," Cordes said.
Olympic gold medalist Breeja Larson won the women's 200 breast in 2:23.44, beating Micah Lawrence (2:24.69) and Laura Sogar (2:24.86). Christine Magnuson won the women's 50 butterfly in 26.08, with Kendyl Stewart second in 26.26. Eugene Godsoe won the men's 50 fly in 23.29, and Olympian Matt Grevers was second in 23.50.
For Lochte, it might be just the start of a big summer.
"A lot of people didn't think I'd be here, but I'm a racer," he said.