Ryan Lochte thinks his old rival Michael Phelps could swim in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo ahead of the Rio Games
Ryan Lochte does not think the Rio Games will be his "amazing" rival Michael Phelps' Olympic swansong and has credited the legendary swimmer for taking the sport to another level.
Phelps retired after the London Games four years ago, but opted to make a comeback and will compete in his fifth Olympics in Brazil this month.
The most-decorated Olympian of all time, United States' flag bearer in Friday's opening ceremony, insisted this will definitely be his last Games, but Lochte thinks he could swim in Tokyo and spoke of his respect for the 31-year-old.
The five-time Olympic gold medallist said: "I think he's changed the sport. He's made swimming bigger than what it was. And what he's done inside the pool and outside the pool, representing the USA, is just amazing.
"I don't think there is another athlete that can do that. To be a part of his team, and even swim in the same events and era with him is unbelievable.
"He's pushed me and he's made me a better swimmer. I know he's touched everyone in this Olympic team and at home. He's touched everyone in a certain way.
"It's just amazing and I'm really excited to see what he will do at these Olympics. But I honestly don't think this is going to be his last Olympics. I said in 2012 that it wasn't his last Olympics and he's back. So I'm saying he's going to come back again."
Lochte also welcomed the decision to pick Phelps, winner of an incredible 22 Olympic medals, to lead his compatriots into the Maracana.
He said: "There's no other better person than Michael to represent Team USA. It's just amazing everything he's done in the sport of swimming and for the USA. It's just tremendous what he's accomplished and there is no better person than Michael to represent us. So I'm really excited and I kind of want to steal that jacket."
Lochte won five medals in London, but the 32-year-old does not feel the expectancy on his shoulders this time around.
"The lead up to this Games for me personally is a lot different to 2012," he said. "I think I had more of a target on my back in 2012. But the past couple of years haven't been up to par for my standards.
"I think I'm the underdog now. Even though with what I have accomplished in the sport it doesn't seem that way, but for me personally I feel like I'm the underdog.
"So that is really good for my mindset going into this Olympics that I'm the underdog and I have to earn my spot on the podium and everything. And just try to be what I was back in 2012."