ATLANTA -- With little training, Olympic star Ryan Lochte got off to a blazing start at the U.S. Short Course Nationals with a victory in the 200-yard individual medley Thursday night.
Lochte touched in 1 minute, 40.89 seconds, just off his personal best of 1:40.08. He was stunned by the time, considering he took a couple months off after Beijing and is still training only about an hour a day, compared to seven when he's getting ready for a major competition.
"That felt good," he said. "I'm really surprised. I had no idea I would go near a best time."
Lochte is entered in six events during the three-day meet at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center, site of the swimming competition during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Just for fun, he also competed in the 50 freestyle, finishing seventh in a race won by another Olympic gold medalist, Matt Grevers.
"Come on, it's a 50," Lochte said with a shrug.
At Beijing, he won two golds and two bronzes, setting a world record in the 200 backstroke and helping set another mark in the 800 freestyle relay. His medal haul was more than any male swimmer except Michael Phelps, who broke Mark Spitz's record with eight golds.
In the 200 IM, Lochte beat out Eric Shanteau, who made headlines with his decision to put off treatment for testicular cancer until after the Beijing Games. This is his first meet since having surgery Aug. 26, two days after the closing ceremonies.
Like Lochte, Shanteau was thrilled with his time, 1:42.59, which easily beat his personal best of 1:43.91 even though he's yet to resume a full training routine.
"That came out of nowhere," Shanteau said. "It's one of those things that makes you question really hard training. Look what Lochte did, too. I'm sure the coaches are going to hate seeing us swim this fast. But that's what you can do when you come in with no pressure, no expectations. I just came here to have fun."
Grevers, who took a couple months off after winning a gold and a silver in Beijing, won the 50 free in 18.95. He's still reveling in his Olympic fame.
"It's so different now," he said. "I go to the grocery store and people say, 'Congratulations.' I never thought that would happen to a swimmer."
In other events, 2004 Olympian Amanda Weir won the women's 50 free in 21.82. Another member of the Athens team, Rachel Komisarz, was fifth.
Mary Descenza won the 500 freestyle in 4:35.63, beating out Beijing bronze medalist Allison Schmitt (4:39.55), a Michigan native who just began her freshman year at Georgia. Matt Patton of Charlotte, N.C., won the men's 500 free in 4:12.80.
Sixteen-year-old Dagny Knutson, a high school junior from Minot, N.D., had the look of a future star when she won the women's 200 IM in 1:54.03.