Rowdy Gaines is one of the most heroic athletes of our time. An American swimmer, three-time Olympic gold medalist, U.S. Olympic Hall of Famer, and member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, this superstar has reached new heights of success. Even more amazing than his athletic accomplishments is his fight and recovery against Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
Gaines was born in Winter Haven, Florida on February 17, 1959. As a teenager Rowdy unsuccessfully tried other sports but turned to swimming as a Winter Haven High School junior. He was soon offered a swimming scholarship to Auburn University where he became a five-time NCAA champion. The talented swimmer trained under famed coach Richard Quick, and the results were spectacular, gaining an unprecedented eleven World Records.
The Olympic Boycott of 1980 came during the peak of his career, when he set world records in the 100-meter and 200-meter freestyles. That year, Swimming World Magazine voted him World Swimmer of the Year and he was predicted to win five Olympic gold medals in Moscow. Following a brief retirement after the boycott, the allure of competition proved strong and he returned to the pool, where Rowdy the consummate technician resumed his attack on the record books.
At the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, he was not expected to medal but instead capped his phenomenal career with three gold medals and two world records. At those Olympic Games, no swimmer won more races than he did with his first place finishes in the 100-meter freestyle, the 4×100 meter freestyle and the 4×100 medley relays.
In 1991, the swimming world was shocked to hear that Rowdy had contracted Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an inflammatory disorder of the peripheral nerves. Partially paralyzed for over a month, Rowdy fought back and overcame the disorder with the love and support of family, the swimming community, and the knowledgeable medical professionals. As Rowdy says, “Swimming literally saved my life. My doctors explained that my significant lung capacity from swimming spared me from having to breathe with a respirator.”
One year later he went on to the World Masters Championships and won the glamorous 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle events in his age group. Fueled by Original Limu and Blu Frog Energy, Rowdy continues a daily regiment of swimming and training. In the US Masters Nationals in May 2009, Rowdy broke three national records for his age group in freestyle events.
Today, Rowdy Gaines is often referred to as “Swimming’s Greatest Ambassador.” Known as the voice of swimming, he has worked with CBS, TNT, ESPN, and NBC as an announcer for the sport, and showcased these skills while announcing for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. He travels the world sharing his love and passion for the sport of swimming with the parents, kids, and coaches. Rowdy serves as a national spokesperson for the Children’s Miracle Network, HealthSouth, Disney, Rayban, Speedo, and John Hancock. He is a member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame and is a sought after motivational speaker by companies world-wide. Rowdy is currently executive director of Rowdy’s Kidz, an organization in association with the Limu Company that helps America’s youth create healthier lifestyles and empowered futures.
Rowdy is now known for dedication to, and vast knowledge of, the sport of swimming. When not commentating for NBC or Universal Sports, Rowdy enjoys speaking to organizations and swim clubs. He also started a foundation called, “Rowdy’s Kidz” which is a wellness initiative focused on helping America’s youth create healthier lifestyles and help build more confident futures.
Rowdy’s undeniable talents, exceptional athletic ability, and miraculous recovery from Guillain-Barre syndrome have made him legendary. Rowdy Gaines is an inspiration to all.