Ryan Lochte: a conversation lesson

The Olympic games are the gift that keeps on giving for conversation lessons. Although the games ended two weeks ago, they are still being talked about and we now have the Paralympic games starting tomorrow.

The Ryan Lochte story interests me firstly because I like swimming, but also because it’s so crazy that you almost end up believing it (as in, nobody would be that stupid and entitled, would they?).

This lesson can be used with students who are B1+, but there are follow-up activities for C1 students as well.

Start by showing students a picture of Ryan Lochte and asking students  to discuss the following questions.

  • Who is this man?
  • How much do you know about him?
  • Have you followed the news related to his story?

Monitor students and correct the pronunciation of his last name. It should be /’lɒkti/ not /lɒʧ/.


After a couple of minutes, turn this into an open group discussion. Students are likely to focus on what happened during the Olympic games in Rio, but it’s worth mentioning that he has won 12 Olympic medals and that he is infamous for being a bad boy.

Now tell students that they are going to watch an interview and show them the photo of Stephen Colbert. Ask students if they are familiar with him. If they are not, tell students that he is an American TV host.


As a gist task, play the interview and get students to answer this question.

  • Is this a real interview or a parody? How do you know?

Let students compare answers and then check with the whole group (it’s a parody).

Now let students watch the interview again and ask them to pay attention to the following.

  • What questions does he ask Ryan Lochte? Are they serious questions?

  • Which word does Lochte use to ‘answer’ most questions?

When checking answers, clarify that intoxicated means drunk, but doesn’t mean the was using drugs.

As a follow-up, ask students to discuss if the following questions in trios.

  • Would a journalist ask these same questions in a real interview? Why?
  • Why do you think Lochte died his hair?

Students are now going to read a text about the consequences of Lochte’s story. Show them the title and ask students to guess if the content of the story is positive or negative.

The original article can be found here and my adapted version is below.

Karma is quickly catching up with Ryan Lotche (Second Nexus)

Give students 30-40 seconds to check their guesses. After that, give students more time to read the text and answer the following questions.

1. Which sponsorships has Ryan Lochte lost? Why?

2. How much money has he lost so far?

3. What does David Carter think of Lochte’s future career?

4. Was Lochte’s story about the guns true?

5. What did the American Olympic committee say about him?

Let students compare answers and then check with the whole group.

Afterwards, get students into small groups to discuss these questions

  • Do you think it’s fair that Lochte lost his sponsors? Why?
  • Does he/everybody deserve a second chance? Why?
  • Should he be banned from swimming? Why?

You could also go back to the text and explore the vocabulary that appears in bold.

to catch up with

to condone

the latter /ˈlæt.ər/

(get) pulled over

to seek

to let down

Either give students definitions for them to match or ask them to guess the meaning of the words/expressions in pairs (which works better with higher levels). Either way, concept check the expressions before moving on to practice exercises. It’s a good idea to contrast the pronunciation of latter /ˈlæt.ər/ and letter /ˈlet.ər/, as well as check students realise condone is a false cognate for Brazilian Portuguese speakers.

For some contextualized practice, you could get students to discuss the questions below.

  • Have you ever got pulled over by the police?
  • Do you know anyone who condones bad things politicians do?
  • Do you ever seek professional advice from friends who work in other companies?
  • If you had a chance to travel to London or New York, would you choose the former or the latter? Why?
  • Can you think of other celebrities that karma is going to catch up with?

Alternatively, if you think this lexis is too easy, you could use this lesson as a way of presenting/revising third conditional sentences. I started with this sentence and asked if students agreed with it.

If he had told the truth, it would have been OK.

From here, you can explore form, pronunciation (weak forms, contractions, sentence stress) and more advanced variants like inversions (had he told the truth …) or ‘but for’ (but for his lies …).

Thanks for reading.


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