Swimming World Magazine named Ryan Lochte the "Swimmer of the Year" in 2010 and again in 2011. The Florida native edged out Michael Phelps, the all-time leader for most Olympic gold medals, who won the honor six of the previous seven years.
Lochte shocked the swimming world by beating Phelps in the 200-meter freestyle event at the 2011 World Aquatic Championships in Shanghai, drumming up anticipation for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, in which he and Phelps will battle for gold in a number of events.
Despite the hype surrounding the young swimmer, the easygoing 26-year-old likes to keep things laid back and isn't that different from a typical American, telling a United Kingdom newspaper:
I'm not a perfect eater now. I still go to McDonald's or Taco Bell two or three times a month to help me relax.
Many now consider Lochte the favorite to take home gold medals in multiple events at the upcoming London Olympics, and "the Lochtenator" is inclined to agree, telling ESPN Magazine how beating Phelps, the most successful swimmer in recent history, readied him for the upcoming summer games:
Once I was able to beat Michael, it gave me a motivation, an edge. I told myself, "I can do this." Once I beat someone, they won't beat me again.
With the potential to challenge the reign of Phelps, Lochte's success didn't come "out of the blue."
Ryan Lochte enjoyed an extremely successful career at the University of Florida before turning into an international swimming superstar.
As a Gator, Lochte won NCAA Swimmer of the Year honors twice and was a seven-time NCAA champion, a seven-time SEC champion and a 24-time All-American.
As a senior at the 2006 NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships, two years after his first Olympic games, he won individual titles in all three of his individual events, setting US Open and American records in the 200-yard individual medley and the 200-yard backstroke. He also broke a nearly decade-old NCAA record in the 400-yard individual medley.
While he completed his first Olympics and a few World Championships while still swimming in Gainesville, his tenure with the Gators is when Lochte started attracting international attention.
At the 2008 FINA World Swimming Championships, Lochte took first place in all the individual medley events and added a second-place finish in the 200-meter backstroke event.
He brought his gold medal total to four as he and his 4x100-meter freestyle relay team set a new world record in the event.
Lochte diversified his medal count when he and his relay team won a silver medal in the 4x100-meter medley relay, losing to the Russian relay team by only 0.09 seconds.
While still swimming for the Florida Gators, Lochte represented the red, white and blue in the 2004 FINA World Swimming Championships in Indianapolis.
The promising 20-year-old won a bronze medal in the 200 freestyle, finishing behind only another budding swimming superstar named Michael Phelps and Canadian swimmer Rick Say.
In his trademark event, the 200-meter individual medley, Lochte won a silver medal, finishing behind Brazilian swimmer Thiago Pereira.
Lochte's biggest highlight was winning his first international gold medal by serving as a quarter of the United States' 4x200-meter freestyle relay team.
Quite the start to the young swimmer's professional career.
Only a handful of athletes ever claim an Olympic medal, regardless of polish.
Ryan Lochte snatched bronze medals in both the 200-meter and 400-meter individual medleys at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China.
The results for both races were the same, with Michael Phelps taking the gold, Hungarian swimmer Laszlo Cseh winning silver and Lochte bringing home the bronze.
This might be considered a bit of a disappointment for Lochte after winning a silver medal in the 2004 Summer Games, but any Olympic victory is still a notable accomplishment.
In the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, a swimming superstar from the University of Michigan emerged. Nipping at the heels of the Baltimore native was fellow American and University of Florida swimmer Ryan Lochte.
Lochte finished second only to Michael Phelps' world record-setting effort in the 200 IM and beat Trinidad and Tobago swimmer George Bovell to win his first individual Olympic medal.
These Olympics would prove to be the starting point of a relatively quiet rivalry between the two American swimmers.
At the Summer Games in 2008 hosted by Beijing, China, the United States' freestyle relay team featuring Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps, Ricky Berens and Peter Vanderkaay shattered their own world record by nearly five seconds and won the gold for the red, white and blue.
Individually, Lochte finished just under a second of Phelps' incredible 1:43.31 time to secure the victory for the US.
Lochte started showing his potential in these games. In his upcoming third Olympics, he will rely heavily on experience of his previous two games.
The United States expected big things out of their swimmers in the 2004 Summer Olympic Games.
Michael Phelps delivered with four gold medal performances in individual events.
However, the story of the Olympics was the American 4x200-meter freestyle relay team dethroning the world record-holding Australian swimmers by 0.13 seconds and establishing a new American record.
Millions of Americans watched the race with tense anticipation, as the Americans won by less than a finger's length.
The victory was only a preview of what was to come in the next Summer Games.
Ryan Lochte dominated the 2011 World Aquatic Championships in Shanghai, possibly replacing fellow American Michael Phelps as the gold medal favorite in several events at the upcoming summer Olympic Games in London.
He again found success with his relay teams, winning a bronze in the 4x100-meter freestyle event and a gold with the 4x200-meter freestyle team. However, this year he found enormous success swimming in individual events.
Lochte won gold in the 200-meter backstroke, the 200-meter freestyle (edging Phelps) and the 400-meter individual medley. However, he wasn't done adding to his gold collection. In the 200-meter individual medley, he beat all of his competitors and established a new world record at 1:54 flat.
It was his performance at the 2011 World Aquatic Championships that led to his being named Swimmer of the Year.
As successful as Ryan Lochte was in the 2011 games, it shouldn't have been a huge surprise after his golden performance at the 2010 FINA World Swimming Championships in Dubai.
He was named "Swimmer of the Competition" after winning six gold medals.
Lochte won the 200-meter freestyle, the 200-meter backstroke and all three lengths in the individual medley series. He established new world records in both the 200-meter and the 400-meter and swam for the gold medal-winning 4x100-meter medley team.
The only non-gold performance by Lochte came with the 4x200-meter freestyle team that won a silver medal.
Ryan Lochte's only gold medal in an individual event came at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
The 23-year-old beat his own world record in the 200-meter backstroke with a 1:54.93 finish, edging fellow American Aaron Peirsol by just over a half second.
Known for his backstroke and individual medley abilities, Lochte is poised to clean up at the 2012 Olympic Games, defend his title in the 200-meter backstroke event and reclaim the world record now held by Peirsol, the swimmer he beat in 2008.
With the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London quickly approaching, Ryan Lochte himself and his many fans believe he has the ability to add to his sizable gold medal collection, that is, if he can beat Michael Phelps again.