With the Summer Olympics underway and the spirit of forced nationalism in the air, there’s never been a better time to celebrate one of our national treasures: gangly, loose-limbed, goofy-faced Ryan Lochte, U.S. swimmer and all-around lovable dummy with a big heart and a set of gold-and-silver grills.
It seems like only yesterday that Lochte, the six-feet-two-inch world-record-holding, 11-time Olympic medalist, burst his way into the public consciousness like a late-night TV host through a paper scrim. Lochte was younger then, less wise, fresher. Going into Lochte’s first Olympics in 2008, he was just a 24-year-old kid with a dream, but he emerged with a dream fulfilled and a bucketload of quotable moments and horrible press interviews, plus longer hair. In the 2012 London Olympics, Lochte was more subdued, with a closely cropped coif, but still a winner: He took home five Olympic medals and set himself up for international fame in his first ever (short-lived) reality show.
But even with all those accolades, Lochte still has something to prove. The Vogue cover star and beloved American hero is back to compete in Rio. And he’s already looking like he’s having fun. To celebrate, here are the best moments of Ryan Lochte from the eight years we’ve had the pleasure of getting to know him. JEAH!
The Coining of JEAH
Anyone who knows anything about sports knows that the two most famous exclamations ever uttered by professional athletes are “JEAH!” and “Yeah, Jeets!” From this, one might posit that “JEAH!” — the world-famous catchphrase of Ryan Lochte — was a blending of Yeah and Jeets, the two words that baseball player Derek Jeter is rumored to have yelled during a session of fellatio. But no. “JEAH!,” Lochte explained, is merely just a personalized version of Young Jeezy’s “Chea.”
“It means almost like everything, like, happy. If you have a good swim, you say “JEAH!” Like it’s good. So I guess … it means … good.” It means “good.”
When asked what was on his cell-phone screensaver in an on-camera interview, Lochte responded, “Rocks.”
The Five Blissful Weeks of Failed Television Show What Would Ryan Lochte Do?
To try to capitalize on Lochte’s post–London Olympics fame, E! gave Lochte a reality television show called What Would Ryan Lochte Do? The gag appeared to be that Ryan Lochte often gets himself into precarious pickles and exciting adventures, like golfing drunk and getting set up on blind dates with Hollywood stars. The show lasted eight episodes before being canceled in its fifth week, maybe because most everyone already knew what Ryan Lochte would do.
Oh God, the Grills
In an interview for NBC before the 2008 Olympics, Lochte explained what was up with the new shine in his teeth. “The grill? It’s kind of like a retainer, just a really expensive, shiny retainer.” In the same interview, Lochte explained that he was also an aspiring artist, but not the kind that you’re used to. No, Lochte was more … abstract: “The drawings that I do now are out of this world. I’ll start out with a cloud on top and then instead of how, you know, rain goes down, I”ll have rain going up.” An artiste and an icon.
Oh God, the Shoes
After 2008, Lochte collaborated with Speedo to design a pair of martian-green sneakers that are probably some of the ugliest shoes any man has ever worn. But, in typical Lochte fashion, he owned the horror: “Everyone knows that I like to take some risks when it comes to fashion, and as you may have noticed, I think it’s really fun to wear an item that stands out — or as I like to say, ‘Martian.’” What? “I love wearing and creating styles that are out of this world, and that was the inspiration behind the designs of my Limited Edition Speedo Footwear Collection, which is a way for me to share my personal style with the swimming community and consumers and bring a little Ryan Lochte flair to the pool deck … Jeah!” That’s our boy.
Accepting That We All Must Age
Lochte is what the world would call a “fashion icon.” He’s been on the cover of Vogue, he describes his style as “rock-star swagger,” and it wouldn’t be an Olympics if he didn’t insert some stylish flair into his appearances. With that in mind, we never knew that this go-round’s signature Lochte Look would be … gray hair. Not sure this look works, but we love you anyway.
The Other Pasta
Sharing details of his enormous 8,000-calorie training diet, Ryan Lochte explained that cucumber pasta wasn’t his thing. “Instead of regular pasta, I had this cucumber pasta,” he told Bon Appétit. “I was just like, oooh, when I saw it I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m probably going to vomit from this. This doesn’t look good. Where’s my other pasta?’” Give the man his other pasta.
Good luck on Wednesday, Ryan. We’re all JEAH-ing for you.