CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Michael Phelps is off playing golf and showing no signs of backtracking on his decision to retire from swimming.
That leaves a big hole on the U.S. team as it prepares for the world championships this summer and begins looking ahead to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
But don’t think the Americans are suddenly going to be just another country at the pool.
While there’s certainly no replacing the winningest Olympian ever, the U.S. has plenty of top swimmers back from its London team, including Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin and Allison Schmitt.
Also, there are some top prospects on the horizon, such as teenagers Ryan Murphy, Lia Neal and Kevin Cordes.
“It’s time for other people to step it up,” said Lochte, an 11-time Olympic medalist who plans to keep swimming at least through the Rio Games. “We’ve been dominant for years and years, and we’re going to keep that tradition alive.”
The next big meet is this summer’s world championships in Barcelona, where the Americans figure to have plenty of star power even without Phelps.
On the men’s side is Lochte, who won five medals in London and recently resumed full-time training after wrapping production of his reality television show.While admittedly not in the best shape, which was evident from his lackluster performance at the Charlotte Grand Prix this past weekend, his passion for swimming hasn’t waned a bit.
“As long as I’m stepping on the blocks, I’m going to race,” Lochte said. “Throughout these Grand Prix meets, I’ve been getting a little better. I still have two more meets after this (in Canada and California) to really work on the little things before world trials. A month ago, I was a little nervous. But now, I’m feeling better.”