Ryan Lochte in the pink briefs he sported for much of the 2013 UltraSwim meet in Charlotte in May. Lochte's swim cap read "Jeah," his own personal catchphrase.
International swimming superstar Ryan Lochte is just about to land in Charlotte for his training, as I reported in Thursday's Charlotte Observer. The picture above, taken in May in Charlotte by our excellent photographer Jeff Siner as Lochte prepared for one of his events in the UltraSwim, gives a hint as to why Lochte is popular in particular with the ladies and has more than a million followers on Twitter.
In particular, Lochte attracts the teenaged girl set. If you can imagine the screams from a "One Direction" concert reverberating inside a swimming venue, that's the way it is every time Lochte approaches the starting blocks.
Nevertheless, he will have a lot less attention in Charlotte than he did in Gainesville, Fla., where he has kept his home base for the past decade or so. It is hard for Lochte to go anywhere in Gainesville without attracting a mob. Once Lochte starts training in Charlotte -- and he will mostly be in the gorgeous new pool at Queens -- and the initial excitement about his move dies down, this will be all about whether Lochte can get his body ready for one more run at the Olympics. The tweets from people who have already seen him on Queens campus, checking out the facilities, will seem a little less breathless after awhile (maybe).
Lochte has 11 Olympic medals already (five of them gold). At 29, he is older than Michael Phelps, but Phelps has already retired (at least for now) and Lochte is gunning for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Lochte also dabbles in fashion design, partying, catchphrases and reality shows. He had a short-lived reality show earlier this year based on his life (it drew disappointing ratings) and called "What Would Ryan Lochte Do?"
It turns out he would move to Charlotte, where his very close friend Cullen Jones resides. Although at one point Lochte sounded like he was going to dabble in training in a lot of different places, including Australia, now it sounds more like Charlotte will be a semi-permanent base for him.
Jones and head SwimMAC coach David Marsh haven't spoken about Lochte's imminent decision, but it's clear both have to be enormous factors in this move. Marsh is an internationally recognized coach whose innovative training methods and signature style -- quality of work over quantity -- has to appeal to Lochte at this stage in his career. Marsh trains an elite group of swimmers whose latest incarnation could even surpass the 2012 roster, which placed five swimmers into the London Olympics. Jones has made the Olympics in both 2008 and '12 working under Marsh.
Lochte ponders a reporter's question at the UltraSwim in Charlotte in May 2013.