Ryan Lochte powered out to a big lead in the event he won four years ago at the London Olympics, his powerful arms churning through the water, looking very much like a lock for another trip to the games.
Actually, he was trying to hide the pain.
By the end, it was apparent to everyone.
In a stunner on the very first night of the U.S. swimming trials, an ailing Lochte was denied a chance to defend his Olympic title in the 400-meter individual medley, finishing third Sunday behind a pair of college teammates who raced right by him on the closing laps.
“I went out there and did my best,” Lochte said. “It wasn’t enough.”
Lochte appeared to be swimming in molasses on the breaststroke and freestyle legs, allowing Chase Kalisz and Jay Litherland to claim the two spots on the U.S. team for Rio.
Actually, the 11-time Olympic medalist was hindered by a groin injury sustained in the morning preliminaries.
“I thought about … scratching,” Lochte said. “But, I mean, it’s the Olympic trials. If I had a broken leg, I’d still go out there and swim.”
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