With 15 world championship gold medals to his name, Lochte is one of the most decorated swimmers at the Kazan world championships and is hunting his fourth straight gold in the 200m individual medley.
But a poor performance by his own lofty standards at last year’s USA trials means Lochte will swim just the 200m IM and 200m freestyle in Kazan — the fewest individual events he has ever raced at a major international meet in 11 years.
Kazan will be a low-key event for him compared to both the 2011 world championships in Shanghai and 2012 London Olympics when he swam four individual events.
He is the first to admit 2014 was a significant blip in his glittering career after returning too soon following torn knee ligaments after an over-zealous female fan ran into him in November 2013.
He won just one gold at last August Pan Pacific Games in Australia in the 4x200m freestyle relay and thoughts of retirement entered the 30-year-old’s mind.
It was the first time Lochte failed to win multiple individual medals at a major meeting since his debut on the world stage at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
“After 2012, I didn’t have a bad year in 2013, but 2014 was one of the worst of my swimming careers. I just wasn’t there mentally or physically,” he said.
– junk food out, training in –
Gone are the days of pizza and chicken wings on a Friday night as he knuckled down to some serious training.
“The main thing I changed was that I started to train again properly,” he admitted.
“Last year I didn’t do as much as I wanted to do.
“I’ve been more focused and taking care of my body inside and outside of the pool.
“Everything has been moving in the right direction, this meeting is just a stepping stone for what I want to accomplish next year.”
Lochte says his confidence is coming back as he looks to match the hat-trick of gold medals he won in Barcelona two years ago and could feature for the US team in Sunday’s 4x100m freestyle relays.
“The biggest improvement this year has definitely been my confidence,” he said.
“Now that I’m back in shape, I’m getting my confidence back and now everything is looking good for 2016.”
A year out from the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Lochte said fans can expect to see something new in the Kazan pool.
“It’s never too late to keep learning and one of the things I’ve changed is my turns,” he revealed.
“I found out I am faster kicking off the wall on my back than on my stomach.
“You are going to see in races I will be kicking off on my back and turning onto my stomach at the last second and hopefully that will work.”
With US star Michael Phelps suspended for Kazan after last year’s drink driving incident and Japan’s Kosuke Hagino injured with a fractured elbow following a bike accident, Lochte will be without two of his main rivals.
“I’m definitely bummed that Hagino won’t be there, I have raced against him for so many years now,” admitted Lochte.
“I have travelled overseas to race those guys and they put a beating on me in the past.
“But there will be other guys going for the gold and hopefully I can do my part and pull out a win for the USA.” –Agence France-Presse