2012 Summer Olympics

Ryan Lochte: Analyzing Lochte's Potential of Topping Phelps' Star Power

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 23:  Ryan Lochte of the USA looks on during a USA team training session at the Aquatics Centre at Olympic Park on July 23, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images
Shaun ChurchContributor IJuly 24, 2012

For swimmer Ryan Lochte, being compared to Michael Phelps is nothing new. While some say he has the potential of topping Phelps’ star power, others believe he already has.

There are valid arguing points for both sides.

Phelps won the world over by smashing eight world records in Athens and Beijing while earning 14 gold medals.

Lochte is the owner of three Olympic gold medals and two world records of his own; is the current U.S. Olympic Team poster boy for Ralph Lauren; has recently been on the cover of Vogue, Men’s Health and TIME Magazine (h/t SwimSwam.com); and recently has beaten Phelps twice in head-to-head competition at the Olympic Trials.

It can be said that until Lochte performs as Phelps has on the worldwide stage, he cannot possibly be a bigger star. But simply looking at their recent bodies of work out of the pool may suggest the two are about as equal as it gets.

In an impressive show of class and humility, Lochte actually calls his fans to tell them how much he appreciates them:

 

LOCHTE NATION!! I want to talk to a fan of mine today! Who wants a call from me? It's going to happen sometime this morn so be ready!

— Ryan Lochte (@ryanlochte) July 19, 2012

 

And 78 minutes later:

 

Ok everyone,i just followed the LOCHTE NATION fan that I am about to call...

— Ryan Lochte (@ryanlochte) July 19, 2012

 

He’s also kept his nose clean. That may be a deciding factor in determining who the bigger star is.

Phelps was a pop culture icon—the biggest sports star in America—long after the games in Athens, where he won six gold medals. He became even bigger in Beijing when he broke Mark Spitz’s record of seven gold medals, bringing home eight.

Then, in February of 2009, a picture of Phelps ripping a bong surfaced and he began to lose his superstar status.

He apologized (for being caught, likely), and we forgave him his transgression. But much like the fallout from Tiger Woods’ affairs and divorce, Phelps lost one of his biggest sponsors, Kellogg Co.

The 14-time Olympic gold medalist has continued to be one of the many faces of Subway Restaurants, however, appearing in a number of the sandwich chain’s TV commercials.

As of now, the two men are at the top of both the swimming and pop culture worlds. Phelps still has big time star power because of what he has meant to the U.S. Olympics and the moments of pride he has created for countless Americans.

Lochte has an opportunity to steal a lot of those hearts this summer. He and Phelps will face off twice in London, and you can bet the entire sports world will stop what it’s doing in hopes of catching a glimpse at history.

The winner in London may walk away with gold medals in hand, but it seems as though no matter what happens, Lochte is on his way to being the bigger star. Phelps has had his run in the sun—it’s time for a new face of American Olympic sports.

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