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Ambrose "Rowdy" Gaines - U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame member, three-time Olympic gold medalist

Ambrose "Rowdy" Gaines - U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame member, three-time Olympic gold medalist

Episode 113 - Ambrose "Rowdy" Gaines - U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame member, three-time Olympic gold medalist

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Show notes (please see Timestamps below for more detail)

It’s been 37 years since he reached the apex of the sport, mining three gold medals at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. In the time since, he has etched out a highly successful broadcasting career and has been a model of unselfishness, whether providing youth clinics, through his fundraising efforts or simply promoting the sport.

His given name is Ambrose Gaines. Those who have been around the deck know him by one name: Rowdy.

Often referred to as “Swimming’s Greatest Ambassador”, Ambrose “Rowdy” Gaines didn’t start swimming until he was 17, but improved rapidly within two years to earn a swimming scholarship to Auburn University.

Gaines had broke 11 world records leading up to 1980 and was favored to dominate his events at the Olympic Games Moscow 1980, but the United States boycotted the Games that year.

Despite taking a year-long hiatus from swimming upon thinking his athletic career might be over, Gaines returned to the water in 1981 and made the U.S. team for the Olympic Games Los Angeles 1984. He won an individual gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle and anchored the gold-medal winning teams for the 400 freestyle relay and 400 medley relay.

Despite being inflicted with a life-threatening neurological disorder at the age of 31, Gaines made a comeback to his sport and was the oldest swimmer to qualify for the 1996 Olympic Trials at 35. He decided not to compete, but instead became the swimming commentator for NBC.

See the timestamps below for more detail.


0:00 - Introduction to show.

2:36 - Interview starts

6:42 - Rewinding the clock, Rowdy explains when his passion for swimming first came about.

8:18 - A 'pat on the back' at a certain stage of our life can make ALL the difference.

9:19 - Rowdy started swimming at age 17, which was (and still is) considered somewhat old. However what he accomplished in the next few years was nothing short of extraordinary.

10:42 - Mentoring and acknowledging a young athlete can be crucial to their 'stick-ability' in a sport. Rowdy explains how impactful it was for him.

13:26 - To become a champion it takes a lot more than simply 'turning yur hands over'. It takes mindset, attitude, work ethic ... Rowdy discusses how his parents guided him and made a real impact in his first few years in the sport.

16:00 - At what point did Rowdy decide that 'swimming' was what he was going to do?

19:07 - Managing your mental game is crucial for any elite athlete. The tough times are when you can learn and grow the most, Rowdy explains his least fondest memory.

20:40 - On March 21, 1980, President Jimmy Carter announced that the United States was boycotting the Summer Olympics to be held in Moscow in response to the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan on Dec. 24, 1979. Rowdy explains how athletes first heard about the boycott and how it affected him and his team mates.

23:55 - Gaines said he experienced mental-health issues after missing out on the 1980 Games and had "some real trouble post-Olympics, and ... some big struggles, especially the year after." Rowdy explains how he got himself motivated and out of the funk of disappointment of not competing in 1980.

29:34 - Rowdy's fondest moment in his career to date. (clue: there have been a few)

31:50 - Managing the stress and anxiousness of heading into the next Olympics as World record holder, World Champion. There was added pressure in the 1984 Olympic Games for Rowdy. He talks us through his experience in the lead up and even through the 100m freestyle experience at the 1984 Olympics.

36:11 - A story about the start of the race that ensured he didn't get left on the blocks.

42:11 - After his career, Rowdy had no real idea on what he would do next ... certainly not a long and respected career in sports announcing.

43:37 - is there more pressure in commentating an Olympic race, than there is in 'competing' in an Olympic race?

46:37 - Wanna know what a typical day commentating at the Olympics looks like? Rowdy has done 8 Olympics!

49:13 - Is there one race call that Rowdy feels is THE best of all time?

55:05 - The world record for the 100m free has dropped and kept dropping for 40 years. How low can it go?

59:25 - How does Michael Phelps compare to Caeleb Dressel?

1:02:57 - Who is the GOAT?

1:08:07 - What Rowdy believes is the future of swimming?

1:13:54 - Which 3 people would Rowdy invite to dinner?

1:17:14 - What's one piece of advice you'd give to someone to help them optimize their life?

1:19:20 - What's next for Rowdy Gaines?

01:21:30 - Interview ends.


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