#30MostSwimfluential: Rowdy Gaines

Photo Courtesy: Griffin Scott

Who is Rowdy Gaines?

  • Brought home three-time gold medals (100 free, 4×100 free relay, 4×100 medley relay) for Team USA in the 1984 Olympic Games
  • 8-time NCAA Champion for the Auburn Tigers
  • 1981 Swimming World Magazine’s Swimmer of the Year
  • Member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame
  • Swimming analyst for ESPN and NBC (since the 1992 Barcelona Games)
  • Belongs to Board of Directors for Swim Across America, designed to raise funds for cancer research
  • Executive Director of Rowdy’s Kidz, a wellness initiative for America’s youth
  • Masters world record holder

How has he influenced the swimming community?

In 1991, the swimming phenom contracted Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of its peripheral nervous system. Gaines was paralyzed for a period, but made a remarkable comeback, winning the 50 and 100 free at World Masters Championships a year later. Rowdy’s Olympic feats, his incredible perseverance, and high energy TV commentary are testament to his relentlessly optimistic outlook on life.

Although Gaines was first known as the fastest man in the water in the 1980s, he is better known as the colorful voice of swimming today. His charismatic commentary welcomes any audience into the wide world of swimming. He breaks races down into an understandable language, and engages TV spectators in a sport they might not ordinarily watch. For swimming fans, Gaines excitement bleeds through the speakers and makes us feel like we’re cheering on deck beside him. Gaines has been there, and offers valued perspective into the Olympic swimmer’s life.

Thank you, Rowdy, for showing the world that swimming is indeed the funnest sport.

Words from the swimfluential Rowdy Gaines:

“I am incredibly honored to be named to the ’30 Most Influential People in Swimming over the past 30 Years.’ It is so humbling to be on a list with so many wonderful people who have meant so much to swimming and me. I will say that the sport of swimming has done so much more for me in my life than I could ever dream of doing for it. Thanks to USA Swimming for making this the greatest sport in the world!”

*USA Swimming and Speedo invited the swimming community to help celebrate their 30 years of partnership by voting for the “30 Most Influential People in Swimming Over the Past 30 Years.” Votes were cast through social media with the hashtag #30MostSwimfluential and the final vote came from a panel of 10 judges selected by USA Swimming and Speedo. All 30 nominees have had a powerful impact on the swimming community. Many are recognizable names, but some have remained unsung heroes of the sport. Swimming World will profile each swimfluential person over the course of the week.

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Author: Annie Grevers

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Annie (Chandler) Grevers is a staff writer for Swimming World. She swam for the University of Arizona, winning the 100 yard breaststroke at the NCAA DI Championships as a senior in 2010. She was also a member of six NCAA Championship relays during her college career as well as a member of Arizona’s NCAA Championship title in 2008. She represented the United States at the Pan Pacific Games in 2010 and at the Pan American Games in 2011, where she won the 100 breaststroke. She is married to Matt Grevers and resides in Tucson, Arizona.

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