updated 06/25/2012 AT 6:50 PM ET
•originally published 06/26/2012 AT 11:45 AM ET
Handsome, ambitious and fashionable – plus, he’s got great abs. Is it any wonder Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte is poised to take over Michael Phelps’s role as America’s leading swimming celebrity?
As it is, Lochte, 27, has already proven that he can beat Phelps, 26. At the World Championships last summer, the blue-eyed heartthrob bested 16-time medal winner Phelps twice in the 200 IM and 200 Free – and then went on to win two more golds, in the 400 IM and 200 Back.
Lochte also managed to snag the first world record since performance-enhancing suits were banned in 2009 (in the 200 IM). But as he tells Men’s Health for its July/August issue: “The World Championships were just an appetizer of what I’m capable of doing.”
Since the Championships, Lochte has been undergoing coach Matt DeLancey’s grueling regular workouts. They’ve been so intense, in fact, that at a recent swim meet an exhausted Lochte lost to Phelps in the 200 IM.
“During heavy training, I’m not great because I’m so beat up,” he says.
But don’t count out his fierce determination. “Pain, tolerance, endurance – when it comes down to that point, there’s always something left,” Lochte says. “You just have to find it.”
Says Coach DeLancey: “I’ve worked with some tough athletes. There’s none tougher than Ryan. He’s not afraid to throw up.”
What he doesn’t have time for during Olympic season is dating, though he’s certainly a catch. He even dresses the part.
In 2008, he told PEOPLE about his interest in fashion: “I’ve always loved clothes [and] shoes” – proving, even out of the water, there’s more to him than just some gold medals and a pretty face.