The 31-year-old swimmer said he wouldn’t be as successful today – holding 11 Olympic medals – without them.
“My family is one of my biggest supporters. I wouldn’t be where I’m at today if it wasn’t for them,” Lochte told PEOPLE at the Team USA Media Summit in March. “And I mean I owe them everything. Through the hard times of my training career, my swimming career, they’ve been there.”
He also said that his family has provided guidance and support through highs and lows (including a freak accident in 2013 when a fan jumped on him, causing him to topple over and tear his ACL).
“I’ve had injuries where I’ve had doubt in myself,” he said. “Whether I was going to come back as a different athlete or come back as a better athlete.
“And they were there to support me and help me and I thought that was amazing and they’re always there,” added Lochte, who will compete in the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials that kick off this Sunday in Omaha, Nebraska.
Particularly, Lochte said his mother, Ileana, has always been his number one fan – and “the world’s greatest mom.”
“Her support and her love that she’s given me throughout the years have been – I can’t even repay her for what she’s done,” Lochte said. “We have that unconditional love and that’s never to be taken for granted and we stick by each other.”
Now, as he heads into the 2016 Olympics, his mom will be right by his side: “If she isn’t, me and her are going to have a few words,” he joked.
Lochte said that after swimming in Rio, he and his mother will stay in the seaside city for a few more days.
“We’ll go do a little sightseeing and relax by the ocean,” Lochte gushed.
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However, a mini vacation isn’t the only post-event treat Lochte is looking forward to.
“Usually before big championship meets – it happened when I was a little kid before a race or a swim meet – she would always get me a little bag of candy as a good luck, and said, “If you do good you can eat it,” he recalled of his mother.
“So I was like, ‘Oh, alright, I’m going to swim so fast now!’ So that kind of tradition thing has happened all the way up until, well, I mean it still happens. So, I’m waiting for my big bag of candy so I can eat it after the Olympics.”
The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro will kick off on Aug. 5.
• Reporting by ROSE MINUTAGLIO