Ryan Lochte, Florida’s Homegrown Hero

Every time professional athletes behave badly, the NCAA punishes a football program or a college player lands in jail, sports fans talk about how we no longer have sports heroes.

In the last month, Penn State was slapped with a $60-million fine for tolerating child abuse. A top draft pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars pleaded guilty to aggravated DUI after blowing triple the legal limit in his second arrest for driving drunk. And days before the opening of the 2012 Summer Olympics, a Greek track-and-field star was kicked off the team for posting a racist tweet.

Luckily, something always happens to turn the talk around. And that something came during the opening week of the London Olympics, when Florida swimmer Ryan Lochte became the first American to win a gold medal in these games.

Lochte went head-to-head with swimming phenomenon Michael Phelps in the 400-medley and crushed him.

He went on to finish the games with five medals, bringing his total to 11, second behind Phelps overall, and tied with Mark Spitz and Matt Biondi.

Though Lochte hoped these Olympics would be his moment to dominate, he handled Phelps’ continued success with grace, calling him the greatest Olympian of all time.

As for Lochte, sports fans have long had reason to admire his talent and work ethic. The 28-year-old University of Florida graduate holds four world records. In major international competitions, he’s won 62 medals — 39 gold, 13 silver and 10 bronze.

Yet because of the spotlight on Phelps, he entered the Olympics a virtual unknown.

Few Floridians likely know Lochte was born and raised in Daytona Beach. Fewer still know how much he gives back.

Being a hero goes beyond physical talent, courage and moral excellence. From our sports heroes, we expect something in exchange for their good fortune, some self-sacrifice to benefit the greater good.

Lochte gives of his time and money to help the National Parkinson Foundation, the Muscular Dystrophy Parent Project and the Mac Crutchfield Fund, where he serves as spokesperson.

Mac Crutchfield was a 12-year-old swimmer from Tallahassee who drowned after slipping and hitting his head during Tropical Storm Fay in 2008. Every year, Lochte takes time to host a dinner and a golf tournament to raise money for drowning awareness.

We can be proud that a Floridian was the first gold medal athlete in these Olympic games. More important, he is worthy of our admiration.

Ryan Lochte is a sports hero who truly deserves to be called a hero.


another excuse for a reezy post, let's make this fun guys!