Name: Ryan Lochte
Hometown: Born in Canandaigua, N.Y., raised in Florida.
Why you should care about him: Oh, you don't really have a choice. This spring he's been everywhere: the cover of Vogue, commercials for Gatorade, Gillette and Ralph Lauren, New York Times and ESPN profiles, hawking t-shirts and glasses on his website, and generally revving up to claim the fleeting stardom that accrues to a few Olympians every cycle. An ad exec said Lochte's appeal is "through the roof." Another said he's "the rock star of the swimming community." He apparently has a personality "wired to star in a Red Bull commercial," which, in context, was meant as a compliment. This summer he'll be even everywhere-er; the only man standing in Lochte's way, professionally and endorsement-wise, was Michael Phelps, and Phelps is passé. Said the same ad exec from above, "We're a little Phelps'd out." One way or another, a small army of people are making sure Ryan Lochte gets exposed to the public, and then probably overexposed to the public. If anyone is hosting SNL off this year's games, it's Lochte.
So, before the deluge, here are your talking points: Lochte and Phelps have a "rivalry," though they're also "good friends"; he's totally, like, a laid-back surfer dude, except when he's totally, like, fixated on winning gold medals; he just wants to live a normal life, but he has to do a lot of cell phone commercials because that "is how superstar Olympians get paid"—and sometimes he "kind of" enjoys them; his coach called him an "airhead," but W Magazine thinks he's just "preternaturally chill"; he wore a diamond grill on the podium at the 2011 world championships, possibly because he's "interested in fashion," which could also account for the 130 pairs of sneakers he owns; he's a lovable goof, which you can tell because he drew and then tweeted this picture of a ... mushroom or something, and because he has a "catchphrase," though apparently it's the same as Young Jeezy's catchphrase, and even that catchphrase was just "yeah." Gotta work on your catchphrase, bro! Nevertheless: the ladies love him, America's leering advertising executives love him, and if you open your heart, you may just love him too.
Olympics/world championship experience: Lochte has competed in every annual world championship since 2004. In that time he's racked up 23 golds—nine in team relay events—along with seven silvers and six bronzes. At the 2004 Olympics he won a team gold, helping upset Australia in the freestyle relay, and an individual silver. At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Lochte won another team gold, along with an individual gold in the 200m backstroke, and a couple of bronzes in the 400m individual medley and the 200m individual medley.
Sexy pose threat level:
Lochte may be posing sexily somewhere right now.
Previous sexy poses:
Olympic archetype: Mark Foster, the British swimmer who, like Lochte, excelled both at his chosen sport and at posing sexily.
Scouting report from home country: Nick Zaccardi, Sports Illustrated:
He seems to be highly self-motivated and depending on how focused Phelps is, Lochte may be able to cause an upset or two given that he has beaten Phelps recently (in Shanghai and in Charlotte). Lochte is riding a wave of momentum into London and will be difficult to beat. He has the psychological advantage coming into London. Lochte is going to win the 200-meter back and the 200-meter IM, beating Phelps in the process. Lochte seems to be on too much of a roll to lose to Phelps especially given the fact that Phelps has lost some focus since Beijing.
Scouting report from some gal on the internet: Swimroom.com user "swimmiechick :)":
I so don't care what anybody says. Ryan Lochte is the most amazing swimmer in the history of male swimmers. so what he doesn't have like 16 olympic medalists!!! HE'S JUST AMAZING. he's way better then everybody else just because he's him. there isn't really a reason why he's better then everybody else. he just is!!! and if you don't believe that then you need a brain check because ur a little crazy!!! lol. RYAN LOCHTE <3<3<3
Did you know? Lochte and USA Swimming teammate Dara Torres appeared together on Who Wants to be a Millionaire, as part of "American Pride Week." They were thwarted on the question, "If the opening credits of The Brady Bunch were a tic-tac-toe board, which of these groupings would make a winning combination?" Torres and Lochte asked the audience, which steered them wrong. Infidels! It's Jan, Alice, and Peter.
Forecast for 2012: Lochte's currently signed up for 11 events, though he'll surely scratch for a few. He's also facing off against Phelps in six of those events, depending on who scratches when. Even if he gets the better of Phelps most of the time, he's probably—you know what, definitely—not matching Phelps' eight gold summer of 2008. Just yesterday, Lochte bested Phelps in the 400m individual medley at the US Olympic trials, and there seems to be good reason to think that Lochte is US Swimming's best hope this summer. Lochte may not dominate individually the way Phelps (and no one else, ever) dominated in 2008, but between the two of them, the men's swim team is going to spend a lot of time on podiums in London. Look for Lochte in the 200m individual medley, in which he set a world record in 2011, and in the relay events, where the tandem of Lochte and Phelps have turned the USA team from underdog to perennial favorite. Also, look for him everywhere else, because he'll probably be there, posing sexily.
Relevant Bob Costas facial expression: