That’s Ryan Lochte. You know that, of course. British people however, don’t. Well, definitely not to the same degree that Americans do. Stateside everything from his habit of having one-night stands to his Twitter spelling errors is practically common knowledge, over in London he’s still that guy who’s not Michael Phelps. Here’s a sampling of Olympic Park visitors I stopped to ask just who the hell this Ryan Lochte kid is, and then what, if anything, they knew about him other than that he’s not Michael Phelps. Spoiler: not much. (And a lot of people who didn’t know got embarrassed and then wouldn’t have their pictures taken, which is just so British.)
“He’s American, a swimmer right? I think he beat Phelps at something… but it’s still all about Phelps.”
Jenny & Richard
Jenny: “Hmm… that name doesn’t ring a bell. Did he win a lot of medals?”
Richard: “Are we supposed to know who he is?”
Clemmie, Jake & Vladimir*
*likely not his real name, because teens will be teens.
Vlad: “He’s the guy who’s been in Michael Phelps’ shadow for a while, maybe he’ll be able to step out now that Phelps is talking about retiring.”
Note: “Vlad” also said he’s a member of Team GB’s under 16 swimming squad, which explained why he knew so much about Ryan. As with his exotic name, that may or may not be legit.
Annie & Simon
Simon: “He’s that American swimmer they keep talking about on TV. I don’t think he’s as good as Michael Phelps, is he? Maybe he’ll get there.”
Stacey & Lee
Stacey: “No idea…. is that offensive? [Laughing] No idea at all.”
Lee: “He’s not British, is he? It’d be bad if he was British and we didn’t know who he was.”
Linda & Jim
Linda: “Oh, gosh, I don’t know, ask [Jim]”
Jim: “He’s that funny swimmer.”
“The swimmer, he had that weird bling for his mouth, right? Seemed a bit silly.”
“Say it again? Okay no. Sorry!”
Laura & John
John: “We heard his name being shouted everywhere in the stadium this morning. Don’t know who he is though.”
Laura: “Yeah, there were a lot of cheers. People must love him.”
Note: It’s unlikely there’d be cheers for Lochte during athletics heats, but who knows, his star is on the rise. John and Laura probably just got confused.
Jules & Andrew
Andrew: “He’s the new Michael Phelps, definitely. He swam incredibly. We’ll be watching out for him at Rio, I bet.”
Victoria & Don
Victoria: “No… we’ve only really gotten into the athletics these Games. Can you give us a clue?”
[He’s a swimmer.]
Don: “Oh, yeah, we don’t really watch the swimming because Team GB doesn’t do well there.”
Bev & Clare
Bev: “He’s that swimmer! Oh yes, he’s a very good lad. He beat Phelps.”
Rachel & Mark
Mark: “He’s on the rise. He might be fighting Phelps for the crown soon, yeah.”
Rachel: “Oh, I know who you mean now. He blew everyone away in some of those races.”
“He swims, swims for the USA. Why can’t we talk about British athletes?”
Note: Rich’s friend Liz jumped in here. She didn’t want to be photographed because she’s volunteering at the Olympic Park, but she had this to say — breathlessly:
“Oh my GOD he’s the swimmer, he’s so beautiful. Beautiful. All the Games workers love him, he’s beautiful, we talk about him all the time.”
I asked if she had the chance to meet him.
“Ugh, I wish. I wish I could — if I had higher security clearance on my ID I’d be following him around the Athletes’ Village.”
Fiona, Graham, Katie, and Niall
Niall: “Yes, he’s Michael Phelps’ swimming partner.”
Graham: “Nobody can beat Phelps, but this kid is emulating him. Maybe by Rio he’ll be at his best.”
Hazel & Pamela
Hazel: “We don’t know much about him, but he seems like a lovely boy. He swims, doesn’t he? Yes, we saw his picture in the newspapers. Maybe we’ll get to know him more if he keeps going.”
Pamela: “He needs to beat that Michael Phelps.”
Coco & Flo
Flo: “Is he the hot blond one? No, wait, let me check on my phone. I want to look at pictures, how do you spell his name?”
[The interview pauses for Flo to check, and then for her to be hit on by some skeezy French guys.]
“Oh yeah, oh I like him now. He’s good looking, yeah, yeah. Could he be the new Michael Phelps? Wait, is that the other swimmer? Oh, well maybe I need to look at more pictures but I think he’s cuter.”
Laura & Ava
Justine, Robert, Natalia & Sienna
Justine: “He’s the one stuck in Phelps’ shadow.”
And this is how Ryan Lochte feels about all this:
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