RedEye

Interview: Why is Ryan Lochte so popular? The Olympic swimmer explains

Ryan Lochte was in high demand Tuesday at Venue One in the West Loop, just like he has been pretty much every day since the Olympics ended earlier this month.

The gold medal-winning swimmer was pulled in various directions at the Hennessy-sponsored party, from posing with rapper A$AP Rocky for photographers on the red carpet to conducting interviews with reporters to having an interview interrupted by Rocky’s pal so he could get a camera phone picture with Lochte.

If not for nightlife entrepreneur Billy Dec pointing the busy Lochte toward me, I’m not sure I would have had a chance to speak with him

“It was like this every once in a while before the Olympics,” Lochte told me. “But it’s almost every day now.”

Lochte was the star of a party Tuesday that included performances by Rocky, Grammy-winner Erykah Badu and Mayer Hawthorne. Fellow gold medal-winning swimmer Conor Dwyer grew up in Winnetka, but even he took a back seat to Lochte Tuesday.

Both swimmers were treated like stars, however, during their dinner with Dec at his restaurant, Sunda, earlier that night. They were served the Gold Sushi Roll in honor of their medals, which they surprisingly weren’t wearing. Following dinner they headed to nearby Dragon Ranch, another one of Dec's establishments, for moonshine shots. Later that night, Lochte partied at the exclusive Board Room for the second time in five days.

“It’s definitely a lot easier now,” Lochte said when asked how much easier it is to get into clubs since the Olympics ended.

Besides his now famous race with Prince Harry in a Las Vegas pool, Lochte has made a cameo on The CW's "90210" and been linked to ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" and "The Bachelor."

Why does Lochte believe his fame has transcended the sport of swimming?

“I’m real,” Lochte said. “I won’t hold anything back. What you see is what you get. And I think that’s why I can interact with my fanbase so much easier than other people can.”

Lochte claimed his fanbase is the best part about the post-Olympics ride. The 28-year-old New York native has over a million followers on Twitter.

“I’m where I’m at because of my fans,” Lochte said. “My ultimate goal is to make swimming bigger. The only way to do that is to show my personality out there -- if I come out my box. And that’s what I’m doing. That’s why I’m doing the “Tonight Show” -- all these appearances. I want to make the sport bigger than it is.”

Twitter @aboutluisgomez

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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