Ryan Lochte is a bigger star than Michael Phelps

by Callum Ng 78

July 20th, 2012 London 2012 Olympics, News

Since Beijing, Ryan Lochte has legitimately swum himself into the same stratosphere as Michael Phelps. Whether or not their rivalry is real, or by definition a rivalry at all, people are talking about Ryan and Michael as equals. But they’re not.

Lochte is currently the bigger star. He has been for some time. He is currently more accomplished, more recognizable and overall more interesting.

In a sport like swimming, we often measure athletes against each other in terms of their Olympic performances. It is the biggest stage. Of course, Michael has 10 more Olympic medals than Ryan. But that only means Phelps has a better Olympic history, not that he is better today. Swimming should be measured like more traditional professional sports, in snapshots, only as good as your last game. Before Wimbledon you could have argued that Roger Federer was the best of all time, but that Djokovic or Nadal were the best in the world. (Of course in the time since, Federer has put his name back in the latter category). With similar reasoning, I would argue that the most recent World Championships, where Ryan swam to 5 gold medals, including beating Phelps head to head in 2, makes him swimming’s world #1.

With the media explosion in the months leading up to London, Ryan Lochte has come out on top. Lochte has sizzled on magazine covers such as Vogue, Men’s Health and TIME Magazine. He is the US Olympic Team Ralph Lauren poster boy. He gets himself trending with hashtags like #Jeah and nicknames like Reezy. Michael has more followers, but that is changing pretty quickly. (Phelps also frequently uses the word ‘tweeps’ but that is content for another entire blog post). It is abundantly clear that Ryan Lochte is just more marketable. In fact, he is a sport sponsor’s dream. Charismatic, likable, cool and now…the best at what he does.

Not disrespecting perhaps the most dominant Olympic performance in history, Michael just doesn’t have the same star power. Sport is a business, especially the Olympics. The burning reason why Tiger still leads golf coverage or Beckham still fills stadiums is because they are stars, regardless whether the reasons are positive or negative. It definitely isn’t because they are the best. But Lochte is, which makes his trajectory steep.

Ryan Lochte will fill your television screen in a few days and charm the world. There is no question. The only doubt is whether or not Phelps can pull a Federer and remind the world how good he is.

Callum Ng, SwimSwam contributor, story-teller and entrepreneur.
www.callumng.com @CallumNg

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9 years ago

I don’t like lochte’s attitude, but he probably is faster than phelps, phelps always wins because he is taller.

9 years ago

Michael Fred Phelps II will ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS be more recognizable, successful, and marketable yes MARKETABLE than Ryan Lochte. I don’t care how more goodlooking than Ryan is. At the end of the day, people care and remember accomplishments and historic accomplishments at that. When you think of the 2008 Olympics you think of Michael Phelps not Ryan. Even in 2004, and 2012 it was still all about Michael. I think Ryan is a great swimmer. And has accomplished so much. But he is not the star of swimming. No matter how hard his PR people try to push him(like they did in 2012), down our throats, its still about Michael.
And on top of that Ryan kind of… Read more »

11 years ago

I feel that Ryan is much better in the market and in the charisma section, but I can’t find a reason why people would find Michael unattractive either. Compared to a majority of boys, Michael has a good stature.

But in swimming, it’s Michael, hands down. It was supposed to be the “Lochte Games” according to the media, but Michael still sweeped London with 6 medals. 4 of which were gold. When I went to the pool the other day, there were many kids swimming, and I overheard them talking.

“Did you see Michael in the London Olympics! He’s so amazing. I want to be just like him!”
“Yeah! I saw him! He’s pretty awesome at what he does.”… Read more »

11 years ago

As far as star power, yes lochte can do it. But that’s because he’s full of himself, arrogant, and stuck up his own a*s. When i saw phelps in his second 60 minutes interview, he said he would be retiring after these 2012 olympics. I got the sense he had no idea everything would have been blown up that big when he won in 2008. It was a one track goal of his that he was trying to complete and he did, then the results of those wins followed that even he was not expecting. He said he is a private person and does not care about the spotlight. This is probably true and he still comes off as humble.… Read more »

11 years ago

Ryan a star, by who’s standards? I just started hearing his name in the last two weeks as the media keeps trying to say he is better than Michael Phelps. (Only better at being arrogant, who apparently couldn’t hide how much he enjoyed that his team-mate almost didn’t qualify for the 400. I haven’t forgotten that Michael Phelps holds a world record for the most gold medals won in a Olympics, remember Bejing! The previous world record was 7 back in 1972 by a Olympian named Mark Spitz, so Nice Try, but until Ryan whoever wins that many he is not in the same league! The only reason I even started watching the swimming was because of Michael Phelps.

11 years ago

Alright, for everyone who says Ryan is full of himself you don’t know him. He swam at Florida with my aunt and I’ve met him countless amount of times and he comes to alot of our family gatherings. His parents are like a second set of parents to me. He’s not full of himself at all.. Maybe it comes out that was because he has glowing confidence.. WHICH HE SHOULD!

Reply to  Siri
11 years ago

As far as knowing him personally you have me beat. But…his actions speak louder than his words and even then his words are questionable. He says this is his time but the results so far are not matching up. 1 gold out of 3 three tries. I know it’s not over yet but some good advice for him is to wait for all the results before he starts talking about his time of greatness. After his tweets about (he does it all for “Lochte nation”) I was thinking to myself “what ever happened to winning for the US?” After all that’s who he is representing in these games. On a related note about representation, lets talk about teamwork and sportsmanship… Read more »

Reply to  paul
11 years ago

His publiscist is not doing him any favors. The self promotion takes away from who he is and what he does, its distracting. I understanding cashing in and making a buck but between the sunglasses, the Lochtenator and god knows what else, she is making him a caricature of himself. Did Phelps ever market himself during the 2008 games like Lochte or es wright have done? No, he focused on swimming , not self promotion.

11 years ago

all I have to say is I’m so TEAM MICHAEL PHELPS!!!!!!!!! 🙂

11 years ago

I completley disagree with this article. I feel Lochte’s media saturation is largely due to Phelp’s public admittiance that this is his last swim meet. Swan songs don’t pull in the viewers the way a fierce rivalry does. If Phelps had not won 8 golds in Beijing, Lochte wouldn’t get half of the press he’s getting now.

Everyone is quick to point out that Phelps won 8 golds in Beijing, but what people forget it that he also won gold in his last 5 races in Athens as well… meaning that Phelps has won 13 straight gold medals in the past 2 Olympics! Fact.

About Callum Ng

Callum Ng is a Canadian story-teller, entrepreneur and sport leader. Callum has traveled across the world as a participant and promoter of recent sport events such as the IOC's WCSE 2011 and the Youth Olympic Games. As a former swimmer, Callum brings a unique angle to swimming coverage, capturing both …

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