USA: Ryan Lochte
USA swimming star Ryan Lochte.
Place of birth: Rochester, USA
Previous Olympics: 2
Previous medals: 6
Ryan Lochte came into 2012 as one half of what has become swimming's greatest rivalry - not only in the USA but to decide world dominance in the pool.
Lochte has, in many people's eyes, toppled the record-breaking eight-time gold medal winner from Beijing 2008, Michael Phelps, as the king of the aquatic arena after a superb 2011, which saw him beat his compatriot and rival in both of their head-to-heads, while also becoming the first man to set a world record since the controversial high-tech bodysuits were outlawed.
Lochte - already a double Olympian prior to London 2012 - emerged from last year's World Championships in Shanghai with five gold medals plus a silver and went on to be crowned both Athlete of the Year at the Golden Goggles awards and Swimming World Magazine's Swimmer of the Year - each for the second time.
In the 200 metres freestyle, Lochte defeated Phelps by 0.035 seconds to take his first gold of the competition then edged his rival by an even smaller 0.016sec margin in lowering the world record in his other 'speciality' event - the 200m individual medley.
Lochte also excels at backstroke, in which he is a former world record holder at both 100m and 200m.
His father, Steve, and mother, Ike, were also swimmers who went on to become well-known coaches, giving Lochte the perfect start to his career.
Quite literally a 'water baby', it is said that he first fell, fully clothed, into a pool aged two and began screaming. His parents dived in to rescue the toddler but, having been carried to the poolside, the young Lochte continued screaming and jumped straight back in again.
"We thought he was scared but it turned out he was screaming with excitement and didn't want to get out of the water," recalled Steve.
Some 18 years later, it was his parents who were doing the screaming as their son - the middle sibling of five children - went to Athens 2004 and swam to a memorable Olympic gold in the 800m freestyle relay.
The USA quartet, completed by Phelps, Klete Keller, and Peter Vanderkaay, sensationally defeated the favourite Australian team that had been unbeaten in the event for six years
Lochte, who is coached in Gainesville, Florida by Gregg Troy, had qualified for the 2004 Games by finishing second to Phelps in the 200m individual medley trials, and he went on to add a silver medal in that event to his initial Olympic haul.
The 'Lochtenator', as he has become nicknamed, furthered his reputation in Beijing's iconic Water Cube by claiming four more Olympic medals - his first individual gold in the 200m backstroke, another 4x200m relay gold and bronzes in both the 200m and 400m individual medleys.
And as his star has continued to rise, so has the New Yorker's reputation away from the pool as something of a style icon - he has even designed his own eye-catching footwear in association with sponsors Speedo.
With all that in mind, it is not hard to see why Lochte is making plenty of headlines as one of the leading athletes in the world.
Even Phelps, it seems, can't help but sit up and take notice.
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