Ryan Lochte is something of a celebrity in his American homeland, where he is not only a swimming sensation but a brand in his own right.
The shadow cast by Michael Phelps’ towering achievements has, however, deprived this charismatic swimmer of the worldwide fame enjoyed by his illustrious rival.
So it was fitting that he should burst into the public consciousness on a global scale with a sensational victory in the pool over his friend.
Backstroke specialist Lochte won the first installment of the ‘duel in the pool’ with Phelps and touched in 4:05.18s in the 400m Individual Medley.
Afterwards he said: ‘Going into the race, I was so excited to get to a final, so I went a little too hard in the first 50 of the fly. I kept looking at the scoreboard, I knew it wasn't going to be just Michael and me – there were other great swimmers in the race. When I hit the wall I was in shock.’
The win may not have come as such a shock to seasoned Lochte-watchers, as the University of Florida sports management graduate has in recent years come to dominate short course (25m) events with a powerful technique matched only by Phelps.
Lochte took up swimming aged five and moved to Florida as a child to train.
After years of effort Lochte remained an up-and-coming swimmer with few wins of any significance. This was, in part,down to a poor attitude, a fact acknowledged by both Lochte and his coach father. A disappointing performance at the Junior Olympics at the age of 14 gave him the kick-start he needed. He simply became fed up with losing.
By the time he was 20 he had established himself in the USA swim team, and took his first Olympic gold at Athens in 2004 in the 4x200m Freestyle Relay, followed by silver in the 200m Individual Medley – inevitably finishing second behind Phelps.
He improved on this tally four years later in Beijing, winning gold in the 200m Backstroke and 4x200m Freestyle Relay with two world-record swims. However gold eluded him in both medley races, where he came third.
By 2011 Lochte – at the time infamous for his unusual pre-race diet of fast food – was named Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) Swimmer of the Year, World Swimmer of the Year and USA Swimmer of the Year – and he beat Phelps in the 200m Individual Medley and 200m Freestyle at the World Championships. Since then, he has become the hottest property on the US Olympic team.
Such was the rivalry between him and Phelps that a daily US TV audience of five million viewers watched the US Olympic trials for London 2012. The two went head-to-head in four events, with Phelps winning the 200m Individual Medley, 200m Freestyle and 100m Butterfly, leaving Lochte to take first in the 400m Individual Medley.
By the time the Games came, Lochte, 28, changed both his diet and his training regime.
His seven individual Olympic medals rank him the second greatest men’s swimmer of all time – and leave him as the natural successor to the retired Phelps.