Ryan Lochte is having too much fun preparing for the Rio Games in three months to even think about competing in his fifth Olympics in 2020.
The 31-year-old Lochte, who has won 11 Olympic medals including five golds, said Thursday at the Arena Pro Swim Series that he thought about quitting "a few times" since the last Olympics four years ago because he stopped having fun.
That has since changed, and retirement is the furthest thing from his mind right now.
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"I will stop swimming the day that I stop having fun," Lochte said. "... I found that fun again. I found it back in my swimming. So I can't say that this will be my last Olympics and I can't say that I will go to another one (in four years). Right now my focus is this summer. When it's all said and done I will worry about that later on."
Lochte moved to Charlotte, North Carolina about two years ago to train with SwimMAC Carolina's Dave Marsh, whom he called one of the best coaches in the world.
What Lochte didn't expect was how the hundreds of energetic young swimmers who compete at SwimMAC on a daily basis would impact him — and re-energized him.
"I see how much excitement they have and the smiles they have on their faces at practice," Lochte said. "As you get older you tend to lose that. Being with them it really shows how fun the sport is, and it definitely brings you back to ground zero and just enjoying that feeling again."
Lochte said the past three or four months of training have been outstanding and his focus is spot on.
He said he's developed good habits in and out of the pool.
Lochte is scheduled to swim in seven events this weekend in Charlotte — the fifth of seven stops on the Arena Pro Swim Series — beginning Friday with the 400 individual medley.
"I'm excited to see how well I'm going to do," Lochte said. "I'm in a good place right now."
Marsh said this week will help determine what events Lochte will compete in at the Olympic Trials in June.
But Marsh is excited about Lochte's progress.
He said Lochte's breaststroke is "better than it is has ever been" and still believes he's the best four-stroke swimmer in the world.
Entering his fourth Olympics, Lochte chuckled at the notion that he'll be one of the veterans on the American team.
"I'm one of the older guys now, but inside I still feel like I'm young," Lochte said with a laugh.
Michael Phelps, who holds the record for Olympic medals with 22, has been a regular competitor in Charlotte in years past, but won't be attending the meet this weekend. The 30-year-old Phelps and his fiancee Nicole Johnson had their first baby last week so he didn't make the trip.
Lochte said he sent a text to Phelps offering congratulations and telling him how he happy he was for his friend.
"He responded, 'This is the greatest feeling," Lochte said. "So I said, 'I'm really happy for you.'"
But Lochte acknowledged selfishly that he'll miss competing against Phelps this weekend in the pool, especially with Phelps recently saying that he feels that he's in the best shape he's been in in a long time.
"I'm kind of bummed that he isn't here just because he is one of the hardest racers I have ever had to go up against," Lochte said. "I thrive off of it and I love that challenge. I am bummed that he won't be here, but I will see him at the Olympic trials."
That could lead to some interesting battles.
"This is a great time for swimming," Marsh said.
On Thursday, U.S. Olympian Connor Jaeger won the men's 800-meter freestyle, and fellow national team member Ashley Twichell took the women's 1,500 free. Jaeger finished in 7 minutes, 54.49 seconds, just over 2 seconds clear of national-teamer Zane Groethe. Twichell had the second-fastest time in the world this year at 16:11.19 to win by nearly 5 seconds. Chile's Kristel Kobrich was second.