Now that his Olympics are done, the silly season has begun for swimmer Ryan Lochte. He sat on a podium at the Procter & Gamble Family Home on Sunday, his face lathered in shaving cream as part of a photo opportunity for one of his sponsors, Gillette. He was presented with a blinged-out razor, which he held up for the cameras while flashing his famous red-white-and-blue grill. Moments later he fielded a question about Dancing with the Stars. (Yes, he'd like to be on it. Very much. No, any partner would be fine, because all the female dancers are beautiful. Against whom would he like to compete? Michael Phelps, of course.)
And so it goes. This will be Lochte's life for a little while -- working with sponsors, publicists and media who are less interested in him as an athlete than as a celebrity. His five-medal haul at the Games was not solid gold, the way he had envisioned -- a pair of silvers and a bronze were mixed in -- but the medals, combined with what appears to be serious sex appeal, have made him a hot commodity. He's ready for his close-up. "It's fun for me," he said. "I'm so used to being out there in a Speedo, that being on display is nothing new. I'm looking forward to all of it."
He's looking forward to other things, too, like 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. Lochte, who turned 28 on Friday, reiterated that he has no plans just yet to sit on the porch with Phelps, his newly retired rival, and reminisce about the old days. He's not convinced that Phelps is, either. "No, I'm not completely buying it," Lochte says. "I think he totally means it right now when he says he's done, but I think it could be that he just needed a break after these last four years," Lochte says. "I wouldn't be surprised if the itch back after some time off. If he is done, though, I'm going to miss him. It'll be strange getting into the pool at a big competition and not seeing him there, and I like competing against the best."
Phelps' absence might not be the only thing that's different when Lochte gets into the pool from now on. In light of his advancing years, he and his coach, Gregg Troy, have talked about exploring other events, perhaps dropping the 400 individual medley in favor of shorter sprints. "The 400 IM might go eventually," Lochte said, "but I told him I will stop swimming it only after someone beats me. And I haven't been beaten in the past three years."
He had his sights set on going unbeaten in London, but wound up with silvers in the 200 IM and 400 freestyle relay, as well as a silver in the 200 backstroke. "I consider myself an A student," he says, "but I'd have to give my self an A- for London. I wanted to do better, but I don't think that five medals is anything to be disappointed about. Not winning is just motivation for getting back in the pool."
But that won't happen right away, Lochte plans to stay out of the water for a couple of weeks of physical and mental rest. "I'll still be training in other ways, in the weight room," he say. "I like looking good." He needs to keep his body trim enough to model pieces from the clothing line he plans to create. Some of his admirers would no doubt like him to stick to the Speedo. "Designing clothes is something I've always been interested in, both sportswear and suits," he says. "I like getting dressed up, putting on a suit and going all out. It makes you feel strong, confident."
All of that will have to wait, however, while Lochte goes through his post-Olympic paces. He had one more task on Sunday at the P&G House -- holding up the traditional oversized check signifying the company's $25,000 donation to the USOC's Team USA youth sports fund aimed at providing sports development for a broader range of children.
"Being able to do things to help people, that's the good part of all this," he says. The not-so-good part is being put through the celebrity grinder, in which every comment becomes grist for the gossip mill. Lochte found that out recently when his mother mentioned that his love life consists of "one-night stands" -- a phrase that does not mean what she thought it means. "No big deal," he says. "All part of the game."
Lochte is ready to play. Dancing with the Stars, he's ready to take your call. Would his old rival, Phelps, take the bait and join him? "I don't know about that," Lochte said. "Wouldn't bet on it."