SwimmingWorldMagazine.com Rewind: 1980 World Swimmers of the Year

By Jason Marsteller

PHOENIX, Arizona, October 15. IN the upcoming December issue, Swimming World Magazine will unveil this year’s World Swimmers of the Year. Additionally, the American, African, European and Pacific Rim Region Swimmers of the Year will be announced in our final edition of the year.

SwimmingWorldMagazine.com Rewind will travel back through the years to reminisce about previous winners throughout the next two months in anticipation of this year’s celebration.

Today’s Rewind checks out the 1980 winners: Rowdy Gaines and Petra Schneider.

Here is an excerpt of the story written in the January issue of 1981:

An American superstar sprinter and an East German Wundermadchen have been selected as Swimming World's 1980 World Swimmers of the Year.

The American, Rowdy Gaines of Florida Aquatics, and the East German, medleyist Petra Schneider of swim club Karl-Marx-Stadt, were selected by SW's editors on the basis of their outstanding long course seasons.

Gaines won in a very close race with the Soviet Union's double Olympic champion, Vladimir Salnikov, who was 1979 Swimmer of the Year. For Schneider, her selection was almost a foregone conclusion based upon her world records in the 200-400 meter individual medleys and her numerous other high world ranking positions.

Gaines has been America's hottest sprinter the past two years after an almost meteoric rise from obscurity. He set a world record in the 200 meter freestyle at this year's Indoor Nationals (1:49.16) and twice broke the American record in the 100 meter freestyle. He initially went 49.61 at Austin in April for the domestic standard and did it again during the U.S. Nationals/Olympic Trials at Irvine last July.

As fast as Gaines was in the 100 this year (and he was plenty fast, speeding to the second, third and fifth-fastest all-time world times) he couldn't quite get the global record (49.44 by South Africa's Jonty Skinner at the 1976 U.S. Nationals in Philadelphia).

"That's what's most frustrating, even more than not going to the Olympics," Gaines said recently. "It's a great thrill to be selected World Swimmer of the Year. It's something I kind of thought about after setting the world 200 record, but it still bugs me I didn't get that 100 record too. I should have and if I hadn't let up at Irvine I would have. Next time I'll know better."

Gaines was referring (not so obliquely) to the fact that in the Irvine prelims, when he went 49.61, he didn't go all out but rather eased up the final 15 meters.

For the complete Swimming World Magazine article on the 1980 World Swimmers of the Year, click here.

Premium online subscribers can view the entire 1981 January edition of the magazine, as well as any other edition of the magazine back to 1960. For more information on a premium subscription, please click here.

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