Ryan Lochte, the most decorated Olympian heading into the postponed Tokyo Summer Games, says he is all-in to take part in 2021.
"One-hundred percent," he told ESPN on Tuesday from his home in Gainesville, Florida. "I still have a bunch of goals I want to accomplish in the sport."
After a series of statements to the contrary, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Tuesday that the competition, scheduled for July 24-Aug. 9, will be pushed to no later than next summer due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Lochte, 35, would be 37 if the reconfigured Olympics indeed take place next summer.
"Yeah, age is just a number," he said. "You just gotta roll with it. This is good. I get another full year of racing, working on my technique and my skills. I can get stronger.
"Yes, I'm disappointed -- because I was ready. But listen, I'm excited. I have more fuel for my fire."
Nearly four years ago in Rio de Janeiro, Lochte won his 12th Olympic medal, gold, as a member of the United States' 4x200 freestyle relay. That tied him with three other U.S. swimmers -- Natalie Coughlin, Dara Torres and Jenny Thompson -- for the second-most ever in Olympic swimming. One of his relay partners, Michael Phelps, holds the record at 28 Olympic medals.
"Honestly, if Ryan is truly serious about wanting to get back, this is a great opportunity for him," Phelps said. "An unbelievable opportunity. He has the experience. Sure, taking a little time off, yeah, he's further behind, but he's somebody who is talented enough and knows how to do it. He can get ready for a Games better than anybody. So this extra year could really, really benefit him. If that's something that he wants. He just needs to step back and worry about controlling the things he can control."
To put Lochte's accomplishment in context: Only eight athletes -- regardless of sport -- in the history of the Olympics have won more medals. Tokyo marks what is probably his last chance to add to that total and an opportunity to refashion his Olympic narrative after an embarrassing series of events in Rio. Four days after winning gold, Lochte and three of his USA Swimming teammates claimed they had been forced out of a taxi at gunpoint in an early-morning confrontation. Lochte was charged with providing a false robbery claim and faced 18 months in a Brazilian jail, but those charges were eventually dropped. Later Lochte apologized, admitting he had been drunk and "over-exaggerated" his account.
"This whole thing is not just about me going to the Olympics," Lochte said. "This is bigger than anything. The Olympics will be there -- they're postponed, not canceled. The Olympics brings people together, and so we're going to have to take care of each other and wait another year. It's not a biggie.
"I've dealt with so many things, especially over the last four years. This is just another bump in the road."