Ryan Lochte tossed aside the swimming brief and got down to business Sunday.
Switching to a regular racing suit for the first time in three days of competition, Lochte salvaged an otherwise underwhelming weekend performance by winning the 200 IM and setting a new meet record at the Charlotte Grand Prix on Sunday.
Lochte had failed to earn a medal in his other five events wearing a brief, but closed strong by beating Conor Dwyer and Eric Shanteau with a time of 1 minute, 57.63 seconds. It was a pleasing finish for Lochte, who failed to qualify for the finals of the 100-meter freestyle earlier in the day after placing 33rd in the preliminaries.
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"It felt good to actually have a decent swim," he said.
Lochte's previous best finish of the weekend was sixth place in the 200 free. He was seventh in the 400 IM and eighth in the 100 backstroke. He failed to qualify for the main heat in the 50 backstroke and pulled out of the finals.
The world record holder in the 200 IM, Lochte began to pull away in the third leg of the race with a strong breaststroke. He was never challenged down the stretch beating Dwyer by nearly two seconds. Dwyer finished in 1:59.29 and Shanteau touched the wall in 2:00.46. Sebastian Rousseau finished a distant fourth.
Lochte said overall he was "disappointed" with his effort at the meet.
"I hate to lose," Lochte said. "I like winning. I mean it didn't happen but I had to keep reminding myself this isn't the big picture. The big picture is the trials and Olympics. I just have to keep focused for that, keep moving forward. People won't remember this meet. They'll remember the trials and the Olympics. So even though I wanted to do well at this meet, it doesn't affect me. I know that it will be there when the time is right."
Lochte used this meet as a training tool.
He swam six races, four more than his main rival, Michael Phelps. He also wore a brief for his other races, but his coach Greg Troy recommended he switch to a regular suit for the 200 IM — perhaps in an effort to bolster his confidence.
"After my swims this weekend I think coach realized, you know what, you have to have a good one getting out of this meet," Lochte said. "So I put the suit on and had a decent swim."
While some swimmers are beginning to taper for the Olympic Trials in June, Lochte said he won't begin that for another couple of weeks.
Lochte said he was pretty tired coming in and is even more exhausted leaving Charlotte.
He said he'll return to Florida this week to continue training knowing exactly where he needs to improve to capture gold in the London Games.
"I'm going to focus on speed, doing little things like my turns and my starts — just speed," Lochte said. "Right now I have no speed. I have a lot of endurance and I have a good background right now in my training and it's time to get ready."
Phelps, the 14-time Olympic gold medalist, beat Lochte in both events they raced. Phelps came in second in the 200 freestyle and 200 butterfly. He did not participate in any events Sunday.