Ryan Lochte was sitting on his couch in Gainesville, Florida, watching television with his wife and two young children Tuesday morning when the official announcement came down.

As one of the most decorated swimmers in history, Lochte would seem to be affected more adversely than most athletes with the postponement of the 2020 Summer Olympics because of the proliferation of the coronavirus. He turns 36 during the original window of the would-be, July 24-Aug. 9 Games. He likely would be 37 when the revised series of splashdowns occurs in Japan.

Given the startling breadth and depth of Lochte’s checkered career, the apparent need to command attention, his immediate reaction was somewhat surprising, almost muted.

“This whole thing is not just about me going to the Olympics,” he told, clearing his throat for emphasis. “This is bigger than anything. The Olympics will be there; they’re postponed, not canceled. The Olympics brings people together, and so we’re going to have to take care of each other and wait another year. It’s not a biggie.

“I’ve dealt with so many things, especially over the last four years, this is just another bump in the road.”

For the record, Lochte said, he is all-in for Tokyo 2021. It would be his fifth Olympic Games.

“One hundred percent,” he said. “I still have a bunch of goals I want to accomplish in the sport. Yeah, age is just a number. You just gotta roll with it. This is good. I get another full year of racing, working on my technique and my skills. I can get stronger.

“Yes, I’m disappointed — because I was ready. But listen, I’m excited. I have more fuel for my fire.”

The fall in Rio

Fully immersed, splashing through the sparkling, bubbling confines of a 50-meter pool, Ryan Steven Lochte is a revelation. To this day he is the world-record holder in the 200-meter individual medley, a testament to his unique speed, strength and, above all, versatility.

Nearly four years ago in Rio de Janeiro, he won his 12th Olympic medal, a gold, as a member of the United States’ 4×200-meter freestyle relay. That tied him with three other U.S. swimmers — Natalie Coughlin, Dara Torres and Jenny Thompson — for the second most ever in Olympic swimming. One of his relay partners, Michael Phelps, holds the career record, 28 Olympic medals.

To put Lochte’s accomplishment in context: Only eight athletes — regardless of sport — in the history of the Olympics have won more medals. Tokyo marks what is probably his last chance to add to that monstrous total, an opportunity to refashion his Olympic narrative after a debacle that, to this day, almost defies description.

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