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July 27, 2016

The Olympics are only nine days away, and Ryan Lochte is ready for Rio.

With 11 Olympic medals already under his belt, the men’s swimming champion will hit the pool once again for Team USA—and we can’t wait to watch. We recently caught up with Lochte when he was celebrating the launch of his partnership with bedding brand and official U.S. Olympic committee sponsor Airweave, and he was getting pumped to head down to Brazil.

“I’ve never been to Rio before, and I’m just excited to meet new people,” he told InStyle. “I love going to different countries and just getting involved with the culture.” When he gets to Rio, Lochte already has some friends who can show him around. “I know a couple of swimmers from Brazil, so they said they’re going to take me to all of the nice restaurants and the beach after the swimming’s done,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to the beach because I love water, obviously.”

But before he hits the sand, 31-year-old Lochte is focused on getting his job done in Rio. “I’m just looking forward to racing,” he said. “When I was younger, I just wanted to have fun and swim. But now that I’m older, everything has changed—and I don’t really party that much anymore, because I’m constantly focusing on my recovery after swimming. So that's the most important thing that I’ve changed.”

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While he may have tweaked his lifestyle, Lochte is sure to have an unforgettable time in Rio—although it may be hard to top his best Summer Olympics memory to date. “I definitely would have to say that it was when I won at my second Olympics in 2008,” he said. “My longtime goal was to make the Olympic team and to get a gold medal in an individual event and, while doing that, break a world record—and I got that chance in 2008. I got an individual gold medal and broke the world record, and all that hard work that I put in and the dedication that I threw into the sport finally paid off. I was just like, ‘Yes, finally!’”

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The special moment had Lochte feeling understandably emotional. “I’m not one to get really sentimental and teary-eyed, but when I was on that podium as the “Star Spangled Banner” played and the flag was being raised up, I started breaking down in tears,” he said. “I don’t know how or why, but everything just hit me. My family was there watching me, and after all that hard work—all those countless hours in the pool—my dreams finally came true. I was like, ‘This is heavy.’”

Here’s to hoping there are plenty more winning moments for Lochte—and the rest of Team USA—in Rio.