With Ryan Lochte's dominating victory over Michael Phelps earlier today asserting his takeover of the once eight-for-eight Olympic gold champion, what's next for the new king of the pool?
Lochte doesn't have nearly as heavy a schedule as his U.S. rival, but it's still not an easy week for the soon-to-be 28-year-old.
Assuming he qualifies for the finals in all of his remaining four events—the 200-meter freestyle, 4x200-meter freestyle relay, 200-meter backstroke and 200-meter individual medley—Lochte will be racing 11 times in the next five days.
Here's the breakdown of his remaining schedule (all times EST).
Sunday: 200-meter free heat (11:03 a.m.), 200-meter free semifinals (7:50 p.m.)
Monday: 200-meter free finals (7:43 p.m.)
Tuesday: 4x200-meter free heat (11:02 a.m.), 4x200-meter free finals (8:51 p.m.)
Wednesday: 200-meter back heat (10:21 a.m.), 200-meter individual medley heat (11:06 a.m.), 200-meter back semis (7:49 p.m.), 200-meter individual medley semis (8:41 p.m.)
Thursday: 200-meter back finals (7:48 p.m.), 200-meter individual medley finals (8:19 p.m.)
Lochte's schedule isn't all too different from what many elite swimmers race in any major competition. Phelps, for example, has three relay events to worry about along with his four individual events, while Lochte is only in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay.
As long as he doesn't over-exert himself the first few days Lochte should be fine. He doesn't race more than twice in a day until Wednesday. That's not very difficult and should allow him to stay fresh for each race and conserve energy for the finals in both the 200-meter free and his only relay.
I think the early schedule will really help Lochte find a rhythm and stay comfortable. He won't have a packed schedule to start out, which won't rush him. This way he can build up throughout his races until the last two days when he has to make one last push.
He can really use that comfort to his advantage.
Lochte's true test will be Wednesday, when he has two qualifiers in the morning within an hour of each other, and another two semis within an hour at night.
He's going to have to do everything he can to coast as much as possible in the heats (and if he can manage it, in the semis) in each event so he has something left in the tank for Thursday's finals.
For an elite swimmer like Lochte he doesn't need to worry about posting the fastest time to qualify, he just needs to get into the next round. Survive and advance.
Will he be able to conserve his energy and just survive? Of course, he's Ryan Lochte. But I can definitely see him struggling in at least one of the semifinals Wednesday night, possibly squeezing into the finals in the 200-meter individual medley as the sixth or even seventh seed.
If Lochte "cruises" into the finals in his last two events, exerting only as much energy as needed to qualify, then he will be in prime position to take home gold in his last two events.
Pay close attention to that. If he has to fight for a spot in Thursday's finals, he'll have a tough time winning.
Overall, though, I like Lochte's schedule. Easing into the Olympics the first few days will really help him find his own rhythm to the Games, and allow him to make that one last, tough push in the final days.
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