“I started thinking about Rio as soon as I landed back in the States,” says superstar swimmer Ryan Lochte. But before he starts four more years of skin-wrinkling training, there’s time for a few weeks off to party in Vegas, dabble in showbiz and ponder post-swimming careers. Pro basketball? Jeah! Here’s an extended version of my recent interview with Lochte, conducted for the latest issue of Rolling Stone, on newsstands now.
So how hard were you trying when you raced Prince Harry in Vegas?
I mean, I had, like, jeans and everything on. So I was probably trying about 10 percent.
You still won, though.
Oh, yeah. Of course.
The feminist blog Jezebel named you America’s Sexiest Douchebag. Were your feelings hurt?
Well, I like the Sexiest American part. The douchebag part, I think they got that from the clothes that I wear. Yeah, I mean, it’s whatever. It is what it is.
You tweeted a drawing you were working on – a mushroom with a crying eyeball in it. Where did you get that idea?
I honestly have no idea. I mean, I think that’s, like, my artistic side. Whatever I’m thinking, I kinda just jot it down and turn it in to something weird.
I mean, why is the mushroom so sad? What’s wrong with the mushroom?
[Laughs] I don’t know. I still haven’t finished that drawing. There’s still a little bit left I gotta do.
You like to watch action movies with your dog. What are your favorites?
I would definitely have to say all the Rocky movies, and all the Fast and Furious movies. I’m big on cars and stuff.
Could you see yourself doing your own action movie?
Oh, yeah. I could definitely blow something up.
You‘ve hurt yourself in all sorts of crazy ways. What was the most painful?
I’d say when I got knee surgery – back in 2009. I tore my meniscus doing the jerk. Breakdancing. We were watching MTV and this song came on and I went to my friends, “Man, I could do this. Watch.” And I started doing it and all of a sudden I heard – my foot went one way, my knee went the other and I just heard a pop. I was like, “Oh, great.” When I got rushed to the emergency room, I was praying that everything was okay and then when they said I tore my meniscus, I was like, “Well, I guess, I had a good run in swimming. I guess my career is over.”
How long did it take to realize that you were going to recover?
I was only supposed to be, like, six to seven weeks out of the water. But me, being me, the dummy I am, I wasn’t really listening. I wanted to get back in the water as fast as possible. So I got off crutches two weeks before I was supposed to. I got back in the water two weeks before anything and I re-injured my knee getting back in the water so, instead of 6 weeks out of the water, it turned into three months.
You‘ve called yourself the Lochtenator. Can a Lochtenator defeat a Terminator?
I’d have to go with Lochtenator.
Even on land? I don’t know, man.
Even on land. A lot of people say swimmers are uncoordinated, because they’re always in the water. But I was a better basketball player than I was a swimmer growing up in high school.
Did you ever think you could be an NBA player? Was it that serious?
I mean, I think I could have just because I know the competitive edge I have and the competitive instinct and the determination.
Is it too late?
It’s never too late for anything. But, you know, my love and passion for swimming is still standing so I’m gonna wait until I finish out swimming and then I might think about doing something else.
After swimming, could you actually could make it in the NBA?
I don’t know. I know the competitive drive I have. I know how to push my body to limits where other people don’t want to go. I could push my body to become great at basketball.
Do you have more tolerance for pain than the average person?
Anyone, when they’re working out, they start feeling tired and they’re like, “All right, well, I gotta slow down or I gotta stop.” Well, when I get like that, I use that as a motivation or energy and I just keep going. I keep pushing my body even harder to almost the point where I need to puke or almost pass out.
How often have you either puked or passed out while working out?
In practice I’ve puked a couple times.
Does the Olympic Village live up to its reputation?
Nah, everyone thinks it’s, like, one big party but it’s really not. I mean, you have athletes from all over the world trying to compete in their event and they gotta be focused.
People don’t think it’s just a party – they basically think it’s an orgy.
Yeah, I mean, they can think that if they want but it’s definitely not. Or, at least, I know our team – Team USA doesn’t see any of that. I know for Team USA, we have strict rules. And we have these code of conducts that all athletes have to sign and you have to obey by them or, if not, you can get kicked out of the Olympics. They have a rule of no girls in guys’ room. No guys in girls’ room. You have a curfew before like, 10 o’clock. I mean you’re pretty much in a prison.
Is there a downside to having women chase after you?
Well, it definitely becomes a lot easier. Women definitely approach you really easily. I feel like those are the girls that I wouldn’t want to go take to see my mom. In a perfect world it would be – if I find a girl that doesn’t even know who I am or what I do.
Do you think you’ll ever get fat?
You know what? I could definitely put on some weight if I wanted to but, I don’t know. My metabolism’s really fast. Oh, but if I wanted, like, a beer gut, I think I could get one.
By the way, people say Aquaman‘s the worst superhero – do you agree?
I don’t think he’s the worst superhero. I mean, he’s in water! That’s kinda my thing.
But he can talk to fish. You can’t do that, right?