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Friday July 19, 2013Partners in Championships: Beisel, Lochte off to FINA Worlds

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The 2012 Olympic 200-meter backstroke finals were moments away and Elizabeth Beisel sat by herself, a bundle of nerves, in the USA team area, immersed in her usual pre-race/basket-case mode.

That’s when she heard the voice of an American teammate, fellow Florida Gator and close friend.

“What the hell are you doing?” Ryan Lochte asked, shaking her from behind.

The five-time Olympic gold-medalist is the anti-Beisel when it comes to the run-up to a race. He wanted to see body language that emoted something other than tense and edgy.

So Lochte took the set of ear buds from his head, plugged them into Beisel’s and cranked up the volume -- LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem,” of course -- and started dancing.

And singing.

“I mean, how could you not laugh at that?” Beisel said last week.

Lochte knew what he was doing.

“When she swims her best, she’s laughing,” Lochte said of the UF senior. “If she’s having a good time on the pool deck, she’s going to swim fast.”

Look for Beisel and Lochte to have a few laughs in the coming weeks.

The 15th FINA World Championships begin Friday in Barcelona, with the swimming portion of the meet scheduled for July 28 through Aug. 4. Beisel and Lochte, who combined for seven medals (two golds, three silvers, two bronze) at the 2012 Olympics Games in London, have been training together the last several months under UF coach Gregg Troy, who headed Team USA’s dominant squad last summer.

Beisel, the two-time NCAA champion and 2013 Southeastern Conference Female Swimmer of the Year, qualified for both the 200 and 400 individual medleys. She won the 400 IM at the 2011 Worlds in Shanghai

Lochte, the two-time FINA Swimmer of the Year, will do a near-repeat of the grueling slate he took on at the Olympic Trials last year. For Worlds, Lochte qualified for the 200 freestyle, 200 back, 100 butterfly, 200 IM and will race in the USA’s 4x100 free relay.

“I looked at the schedule and one day I have three events,” Lochte said. “That’s never happened before.”

Should make for quite a task, especially after his dizzying post-Olympic run of red carpets, talk shows and reality television. Lochte, 28, went months without jumping in a pool -- the longest dry stretch during his adult life -- before resuming his training with Troy and alongside Beisel and the rest of the Gator Swim Club at the O’Connell Center.

The two were the lone Americans to work out with Troy in the run-up to the Worlds, which are staged every other year.

“We do almost all our sets together,” Beisel said of their morning workouts that last about two hours and cover between 6,000-7,000 meters. “Ryan is the one who keeps me going in practice. When it’s getting really hard or too serious, he’s the one who lightens the mood and keeps me positive.”

How does he lighten the mood (besides LMFAO tracks)?

“Mostly by making fun of her,” he said.

Of course, Beisel could return the favor with any number of pot shots directed at the E! realty series “What Would Ryan Lochte Do?” Not that Lochte hasn’t heard (or read) most of them already.

Besides, he admits to liking the attention and the celebrity lifestyle.

“If I paid attention to it, I wouldn’t be swimming. I wouldn’t be doing anything. I’d be hiding,” he said with a smile. “No matter what anyone says, good or bad, it goes in one ear and out the other. I just need to focus on myself and helping the others around me, the ones close to me. Whatever anyone else says, bring it on. More fuel for the fire.”

Make that fire and water.

After his strong performance at the US Nationals this spring, Lochte is locked in again on his swimming. That’s why he came back to resume workouts with Troy, his mentor since arriving at UF from Port Orange (Fla.) Spruce Creek High School in 2002.

Lochte calls Troy “the world’s best coach.

He also calls him his “second father.”

They’re that close.

Troy, however, has advised Lochte take to the road after the World Championships. No, not for more jet-setting and swinging with the stars, but to train with coaches he respects in places like China and Japan. For a change of pace; to switch things up.

And that’s exactly what Lochte is going to do.

“I’d trust him with my life,” he said.

For now, Lochte only need trust Troy with long-range training guidance that is targeting the next Olympics. Both he and Beisel have the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro firmly in their sights.

They also know they’re three years away.

For Beisel, who will be 24, it will be her last Olympics. Lochte says it will be his final Games also, yet he’ll be 32.

That’s a lot of meters. Make that miles.

“Florida is known as one of the hardest-working programs -- pound the yardage -- and he’s been doing it for 12 years now,” Beisel said. “I’ve been doing it for three [years] and I’m like, ‘I don’t know if I can last another three.’ ”

If Lochte has anything to do with it, she’ll make it.

(See LMAFO)

“She’s a good friend and I trust her ... and she’s a great athlete, too,” he said. “I’m privileged to train with her. Yeah, we joke around all the time in practice, in and out of the pool, but I think I help her. In a good way.”

In time, maybe even in a golden way.

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