On the Cover: Ryan Lochte’s Mellow Gold

Photograph by Jake Chessum

Olympian Ryan Lochte is on the cover of ‘Men’s Journal’s’ August issue, on sale now. Over the past decade, the 27-year-old has experienced a distinct push and pull between Lochte the Athlete and Lochte the Dude. On the one hand, there are his six Olympic medals and recognition as the 2011 Swimmer of the Year. On the other, there’s his inability to abandon his beloved skateboard and scooter, which have resulted in three broken ankles and two crashes over the past five years alone. But the difference between Lochte in 2008 and Lochte today is his confidence, as swimmer Gary Hall Jr. explains to Stephen Rodrick. “He’s not afraid of [Michael] Phelps. That’s big.” Still, not everyone is convinced that Lochte’s mellow vibe will serve him well against Phelps in London. But that doesn’t bother him. “I could get one medal or 20, and I’ll be happy.” Some highlights from the magazine story:

• Lochte trains in the pool nine times a week for two to three hours at a time, but he insists his pool-work doesn’t define him. “I’m not going to give up anything for it. I’m still going to be exactly who I am and have fun with life,” Lochte says. “There’s a lot of swimmers out there who make swimming their life, but for me, it’s just a sport that I do.”

• Despite his success – five world championships, two world records – Lochte’s free spirit and extracurricular athletic activities have been the subject of heavy criticism. Still, he disagrees with the theory he’d be better off if he didn’t bash his body before big meets. “If I didn’t get in a scooter accident or get knee surgery, would I be the same person?” he wonders. “I don’t know. The way I swim my best is by having fun and just being relaxed, so I’m going to do all the other crazy stuff, and whatever happens, happens.”

• In addition to his pool regimen, Lochte’s trainer (former strongman competitor Matt DeLancey) has the swimmer toss kegs, turn over giant tires, and drag anchor chains through parking lots. DeLancey and swim coach Gregg Troy also convinced Lochte to stop his daily Taco Bell runs and switch to a diet of lean meats and salads. “One thing we learned from 2008 is we weren’t strong enough,” says Troy. “We’ve worked on that for four years. The nutrition is a classic maturity issue. Those weren’t things he hadn’t been told before – those were areas where he wasn’t listening before, and he started to listen a little bit better.”

• As Rodrick observes, Lochte listens to hip-hop 24/7 (in fact, it was Lil Wayne and Young Jeezy who inspired him to start wearing his now infamous grill). His young fans love it. The traditionalists, not so much. “Some of the tight-asses were like, ‘Oh, what the heck, that’s not good, that’s not good sportsmanship,” says Lochte with a roll of the eyes. “I don’t show them off during the ceremony, anything like that, but it’s like, my personality coming out there. That’s what the sport needs. If we want to make the sport bigger than it is now, we have to start showing our personalities.”

Related Stories:
The Ryan Lochte Short List
Michael Phelps vs. Ryan Lochte

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