Saturday I wasn’t a timer, so I sat in the stands and took pictures and cheered for most of Ryan’s events.
50 back (Event 40, heat 2 of 2, lane 1)...
As I was looking at the heat sheet, I noticed that it said the following: “Heat 1 of Event #42 will be combined with the Girls Heat 1 of Event #41." That would mean that Ryan had to get out of lane 1 at the end of his 50 back and run to lane 8 for the start of his 200 IM. Usually the prior heat has to stay in the pool until the next heat starts! I pointed it out to Coach Steve, and he talked to the official. They looked at a couple of different options, but decided to just have a break for a few minutes between the two events for Ryan to catch his breath and get to his lane. I stood down by the start blocks for his 50 back, reminded the official that Ryan was the one that was getting to lane 8 for the next event, and then stood with Ryan while he caught his breath. Once he was ready, we gave the official the thumbs up sign. Interestingly, two of the other boys in that heat MISSED THE HEAT! The coaches were furious that Ryan could get across the pool in back-to-back heats and still make it, yet the other two boys couldn’t make it from the deck or the warm-up pool. That got Ryan mega bonus points!
200 IM (Event 42, heat 1, lane 8)
After the 200 IM, I stayed on deck with him to help him get ready for his 400 IM – physically and mentally. As he was preparing for the 400 IM, one of the coaches looked at the heat sheet and said, “Ryan’s swimming the 400 IM? What’s WRONG with you?!?!” (Teasing, of course.) Ryan’s very first coach on the team said she was so proud of him for doing it because she didn’t think she’d even be able to do it!
The 400 IM is also an extremely difficult event. It’s the event that Ryan won the bronze medal at the Utah Summer Games. He was also the only 11 year old to do it, with two 15 year olds and two 17 year olds! For you non-swimmers, at the pool at this meet, the 400 IM consists of 4 laps of butterfly, 4 laps of backstroke, 4 laps of breaststroke, and 4 laps of freestyle. It is grueling! Interestingly, Ryan Lochte has said that he hates the 400 IM because it is the most difficult event. So, during our mental prep, I kept whispering to Ryan, “I am a medalist in this event…I am a medalist in this event…” to help him psych himself up to do it. As Ryan was getting in the pool, Coach Steve said, “You don’t have to win, Ryan. You just have to beat Lars.” Lars is a cute, outgoing 17-year-old guy on the team that Ryan really admires. We chuckled, knowing that Coach Steve was kidding.
Some of the guys (age 11-14) who were not brave enough to swim the 400 IM…but cheering for Ryan as he swam the Butterfly portion!
The four other guys swimming in the event finished while Ryan still had a couple of laps to go in his freestyle.
Then something happened that you only hear about. After Lars finished, he swam back out into the pool and swam alongside Ryan, saying, “Keep going! Keep going, Ryan!” Coach Dale yelled at Lars to get back to the wall, knowing that he could be disqualified for going back out. But Lars stuck with Ryan until Ryan’s last lap. Lars made sure that he swam back to the wall before Ryan finished.
The cheers that erupted in the natatorium when Ryan finished were overwhelming. Coach Steve once again led all of the swimmers and coaches on the sidelines in the “Big O” cheer. I also applauded Ryan’s tenacity and courage from the sidelines, wiping my tears away between my claps.