Sure, we loved McKayla Maroney, Gabby Douglas, Usain Bolt and plenty of other stellar athletes (and memes) at the 2012 London Olympics, but when it came time to choose our 12 Celebrities Who Dominated 2012, one name stood out in our minds: Ryan Lochte. He gave so much to the world this year: spectacular views of his carefully shaved chest, gold medals, amazingly obvious quotes and even a brand-new word — Jeah! The 28-year-old evolved from an athlete/Gilette spokesmodel into a pop-culture phenom before our very eyes (and we were happy to look and look). The best part is, we don’t think this year will be the last we see of him!
Dominating Moment: It’s a toss-up — was it when he kicked off his London 2012 run with a gold in the 400m individual medley or when he raced Prince Harry in a pool in Vegas? Maybe it was that time Seth MacFarlane made fun of him on SNL? That’s when you really know you’ve made it.
Dominating on Twitter: With 1,015,049 followers, Lochte quite consistently retweets his fans, comments on sports, posts adorable pics of his nephews and throws in entertaining exchanges, like a recent convo with Serena Williams.
Best Appearances: Before the Olympics, Ryan was on the covers of magazines and in every other ad on TV. During the Olympics, he confirmed our suspicions that even Olympic swimmers pee in the pool. After the Olympics, he was lining up the talk-show spots, puppy photo ops and guest-starring roles on TV. We’re still crossing our fingers he’ll be The Bachelor one day. In the meantime, we’ll settle for his role as the “sex idiot” on 30 Rock.
What We Expect From Him in 2013: Unlike his buddy Michael Phelps, Ryan plans to swim at the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro. Based on how much we saw him all over New York Fashion Week last fall, we fully expect him to pursue his fashion design aspirations as well. And also maybe squeeze in a season of Dancing With the Stars.
Because we can’t get enough of that goofy mug, here’s a gallery of Ryan Lochte’s silly faces:
[Photos: Getty Images, NBC, Twitter]