Ileana Lochte is ready for Rio.
Mother to Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte, Ileana is in Rio de Janeiro to cheer on her son, who is competing for his twelfth medal at the Games, which kick off August 5.
Ileana, who also coached her son in swimming, talked to mom.me via email and shared the special way she supports her son, how she prepped for Zika warnings and what she thinks of Ryan's new blue 'do.
Congratulations! Do you ever get used to being the mom of an Olympian, or does it feel new each time?
Each time Ryan has made the Olympics, I feel it is the first time. The butterflies and all that comes with it are there. No one is assured to make the team. Anything can happen.
At what moment did you realize that you had a star swimmer on your hands?
Since I saw him race the first time, I felt he was capable of being a good swimmer, due to his instinctive feel for the water and his competitive nature. It wasn't until the 2004 Olympics that I truly realized how good he was and his drive to do better.
We just saw that Ryan dyed his hair blue. What do you think of it? What was the symbolism behind that choice?
When he sent the family his picture, I replied "OMG!" I just laughed. Ever since I was shocked in Australia with the grills, I have learned to accept and expect the unexpected. My guess is, it's a way to release tension/stress.
I have learned to accept and expect the unexpected.
You have five children. How did you keep everything organized with all of the different schedules in your family?
In our family, the whole family was involved in swimming, so scheduling activities was not so much of a hardship. Even though I coached, I was able to get coverage to take my children to their other activities, such as other sports and school functions. We prioritized the events. We also had great grandparents that were very supportive of my children.
Everyone's talking about Zika. Are you or Ryan worried at all about traveling to Rio?
I gave my children all the information I could get from various sources. Only the boys elected to travel to Rio. This will be the first time the girls, Megan and Kristin, will not be going.
Do you have any special family traditions to show your support for Ryan and his Olympic bid?
Since he was little, I give him a goody bag mostly filled with candy (to have after). Since 2008, when Ryan swims the 200 IM, we wear our Speedo Lochte 1 T-shirt. Also, my mother, from wherever she is, kisses her hand and blows him a kiss. She states she helps him go through the water faster. I text him and remind him what my mom is sending him.
Who are the athletes that Ryan looks up to?
When he was younger, Pablo Morales inspired him to swim faster. Since then, he has looked up to many athletes for their abilities and mannerisms that make them stars. Among them is basketball star Michael Jordan. He is quite a motivator.
Sports come with a lot of wins and losses. How have you encouraged Ryan to keep his drive, even after disappointments?
Ryan is a self-motivator. His love to compete overtakes his disappointments. It seems to be a game for him. That's why I always say "Have fun" when going to a meet.
How do you hope Ryan will remember this time in his life?
I hope and feel he sees this as only a chapter in his life, with many more chapters to be written.
Images via Ileana Lochte and Instagram