Adam Rippon Riffs on Covering Tokyo Games for NBC: 'I Want to Know About Lilly King's Croc Collection'

"I'm really blossoming in my role of the Diane Sawyer of the Olympics," Adam Rippon jokes

It's best, when Adam Rippon gets going on a topic, to let him keep talking.

NBC seems to agree: The network brought the 2018 Winter Olympic breakout and figure skating medalist to Japan to cover the Summer Games where he hosts Talkin' Tokyo with basketball analyst LaChina Robinson.

The show airs on Twitter each morning, East Coast time, which means it films well after the sun has gone down in Tokyo.

But Rippon tells PEOPLE the scheduling flip-flop is well worth the fun he's having — and what fun: Characteristically chatty, sassy, self-effacing and self-reflective, Rippon riffs with relish on what it's been like in front of the camera.

"You have this chance to share your story with everyone. You can really inspire a lot of people," he says. "And I think when I have the chance to sit across from an athlete that's what I really want them to do, because that was one of my favorite parts of being at the Olympics as an athlete myself."

"I want to know how was your rivalry with this person? Or how did you deal with this pressure, of course," Rippon, 31, goes on, "but also I want to know about Lilly King's Croc collection."

He pauses, cueing himself up.

"What happened? Do you need eight pairs? And she does — and that's what I want to get to."

In highlights from his PEOPLE interview, below, Rippon sounds off on filming Talkin' Tokyo, his first Olympics as a spectator and the athlete who made him want to "sob" streaks of spray tan.

Adam Rippon Talkin' Tokyo
From: LaChina Robinson and Adam Rippon. Courtesy NBC

The Summer Olympians that have stood out

"Lilly King is really just — I always have loved her, but I love the way that she uses her voice. I love the way that she doesn't back down from her own opinions, which I agree with a hundred percent of the time. I just love that she does all this while competing and she will say things about the Russian athletes that are here to their face.

"If there was anybody here, there's a few people I wouldn't want to get in a fist fight with. I'm 5-foot-7, slight frame, easily beatable, but Lilly King is up on the top of that list because I know she'll eat me alive. I'll be like meat off the bone. It won't be good.

"I also have to say, I think Raven Saunders, the shot putter [who won a silver]. Talk about making me want to sob. I've spray tan pouring down my face. When I think of athletes that I wish I had seen when I was young at games, I think of someone like Raven Saunders.

"Ilona Maher's TikTok is Olympic level. And Suni Lee winning all-around gold in white-tipped nails."

One of his favorite things to watch ...

"I got to see Katie Ledecky in the pool, which was incredible. But going to the aquatic center, I have a bone to pick. And my bone to pick is I didn't realize 50 meters was actually that long, and the 1500 meters is 15 minutes. Did anybody kind of workshop that? That seems like a really extensive amount of time to be in a pool.

"I do have to say I need everyone to know that gymnastics in person is a completely different experience than gymnastics on television. On television, it's amazing, we're in awe. But in-person, to truly see people huck and chuck themselves into the air, you get a real feel for how dangerous it is and how wild these people are.

"Listen by law, you can't be taller than 5-foot-6. I don't make the rules, it's in the guidelines. Everyone is short, everyone is hot — and that's the other rule, that's the second rule of gymnastics. The third rule is stick it. It's just those three rules and stay in bounds."

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On possibly switching sports and competing in a Summer Games

"When I think of the sports and when we write it out on paper, it sounds fascinating. Right? Let's take swimming for example. You have to swim 50 meters, roughly 1,000 times in one race, okay. Then you need to wear the tightest piece of clothing you can find, then you have to get in the pool, but it's not over. You also have to be 6-foot-5, and you have to shave off every piece of hair your body might grow. Otherwise, you're going to lose.

"And that's swimming, right? That sounds really intense, but they do it.

"Ryan Murphy did it. Ryan Murphy is an Olympic gold medalist and he wrote Glee, and nobody mentioned that."

About his chemistry with his co-host, whom he just met

"I obviously have been really into the gymnastics and the swimming, and LaChina obviously knows so much about the basketball and the baseball and the softball. So we've been kind of sharing our passions with each other and I feel like we're both learning a lot, but we've had so much fun together.

"I think it's great because they took the tallest person they could find and put them with the shortest person they could find. What could go wrong? And I can tell you nothing's gone wrong yet.

"Of the two of us, I'm definitely the Hoda because LaChina is definitely the Savannah. She gives off White House correspondent vibes, but she can still drink with the dolls. She can hang."

Adam Rippon. MediaPunch/Shutterstock

And that crazy time-changed filming schedule

"Our show is live at 10:30 a.m. Eastern. That means that we record here in Tokyo at 11:30 p.m. It is nightmarish, but my whole day is clunked over. I probably don't go to bed until 3 or 4 in the morning. I'll probably get home from the studio around 1. I need to calm down. I've been giving it my all for a half-hour a day, okay — imagine that, 30 full minutes of undivided attention."

Has there been a learning curve?

"I'm really blossoming in my role of the Diane Sawyer of the Olympics, which everybody's been saying, and I'm like, 'Stop!' But I will say, I think the one thing that I've really gotten to do now that I'm doing journalistic heavy lifting is that I've really gotten to learn more about every athlete that's here and I've really gotten to learn their story.

"I think in a way when you casually watch the Olympics, you get kind of just a little taste of each athlete. But being here and having the opportunity to meet them in person and go through their bios and read about their story, it makes the Olympics even more meaningful.

"I think of my own experience, and I'm just so excited for so many of the athletes here who are having such a great time and have really persevered through everything and through everything that we've been through in the last year, it's amazing."

Talkin' Tokyo airs daily (10:30 a.m. ET) on Twitter at @NBCOlympics.

To learn more about Team USA, visit Watch the Tokyo Olympics now on NBC.

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