Ryan Lochte no longer has to contend with Michael Phelps. Picture: AP Photo/Darron Cummings

Barcelona – Ryan Lochte is known to not shy away from a challenge and in the absence of Michael Phelps he could be the superstar at the 15th Fina world swimming championships.

To do so, Lochte will have to follow in some very big footsteps though – Phelps wears size 14 shoes.

The 28-year-old Lochte, who was born in Canandaigua, New York, has shown often enough that he is capable of being the star. What he has often not done is show that he is interested in doing so.

At the worlds in 2011 in Shanghai a fully focused Lochte won five golds and a bronze and followed that up a year later with two gold, two silver and one bronze at the London Olympics.

Lochte also became the first swimmer to break a world record in the post-hightech swimsuit era.

But, as if that success was enough, after the Olympics, Lochte turned his attention to starring in his own reality TV show and not surprisingly, his training suffered, though he did gain in other areas.

“Honestly, I didn't know there would be shooting every day. We did eight weeks in total and every day was about 7am to 9 and 10pm. It was draining but it was a good experience and I am glad I did it,” he said in an interview.

“It got me a lot closer to my family, I got to see them a lot more ... that was the best part about it.”

After the show, which all but flopped and might not run for a second series, Lochte returned to training full-time.

“All I know is that the past seven weeks have been the best seven weeks of training I've done in a long time. I've been fully focussed, committed. It's been really good. But I don't know if it will be enough or not,” said Lochte shortly before the US trials.

Indications are that it will be good enough.

In Barcelona, he will be swimming in four individual races (100m butterfly, 200m freestyle, 200m backstroke and 200m individual medley) as well as the two sprint relays.

In Indianapolis at the trials, which also doubled-up as the US championships, Lochte won the 200m freestyle, 200m backstroke and the 200m medley and came second in the 100m butterfly, with times suggesting that he is ready for the challenge of the worlds, which run from July 19 to August 4.

He admitted that he was somewhat surprised that he did so well.

“I wasn't planning on making worlds in that many events, but I'm a racer,” Lochte told journalists after the trials.

“There's no two ways about it. When I get on those blocks, I race and that's what I know how to do the best.”

He has already indicated that he will be taking time-out, again, after Barcelona and wants to leave the US and train elsewhere.

He said that he has spoken about it with his coach, Gregg Troy.

“We've talked about different places where I can train, looking at the same kind of training that I would get here and just be in a different atmosphere.

“He has talked about going to China, he's talked about going to Japan, Australia, Canada, just outside the US. Doing something different and getting away from pretty much everything and just train.”

Moving away from the US will not, however, distract Lochte from going for his next big challenge: Becoming a four-time Olympian.

“One of biggest goals of mine when I set out on this was to go to four Olympics. Hopefully, 2016 will be those fourth Olympics,” he said.

Lochte is, however, reluctant to commit beyond that. “There are other goals that I do have in mind. I'm not going to share them. I will keep those to myself and I guess keep the world guessing what I want to do.”

And thus the world will just have to wait and see if Lochte can follow in Phelps' very big footsteps. – Sapa-dpa