LOS ANGELES — With his camera-ready good looks, quirky catchphrases and funky fashion choices, swimmer Ryan Lochte parlayed the five medals he won at the 2012 Olympic Games into a burgeoning media career.
But the 28-year-old athlete says he's back in the pool training for future competitions and only embraced Hollywood to raise his sport's profile.
“My main goal is to make swimming bigger than what it is, or what it was back in 2008, and the only way I can do that is by going and doing cameos, being on talk shows, doing all those little things to help bring people aware that like, just bring them into swimming more,” Lochte said in an interview Wednesday.
“Honestly, the only time you ever hear about swimming is during the Olympics,” he said. “I say to myself and to other people: 'Why can't swimming be like the NBA or the NFL or something like that,' because we do have those big championship meets once a year, so why can't we have that (attention)?”
Lochte has been among the most visible Olympians to emerge from the Summer Games in London.
He's worked as a fashion correspondent for TV's “Extra” during New York Fashion Week, filmed cameos for “30 Rock” and “90210,” served as a presenter at the Alma Awards, introduced Lil Wayne on stage at last week's I Heart Radio concert in Las Vegas, and was spoofed by Seth MacFarlane on the season opener of “Saturday Night Live.”
He's also using his heightened profile to help raise funds for Water for People, which provides clean drinking water sources to developing nations that lack them. Lochte and fellow gold-medal swimmer Conor Dwyer co-star in a new public-service announcement for the nonprofit group.
Lochte was “honored” to lend his famous face to the cause because “water is practically part of my life.”
Still, on-camera work isn't easy.
“I can go up on the blocks and swim in front of millions and millions of people, no problem, and perform at my best. … But getting in front of a camera and doing a little acting? That is nerve-racking,” he said.
He felt a little better on “30 Rock.”
“I was working with Alec Baldwin, who's a tremendous actor, and he helped me out,” Lochte said. “He was just like, 'Be yourself.' And he kind of made it on set a little more easy to work with because he was just goofing off the whole time.”