Rowdy Gaines

Ambrose "Rowdy" Gaines IV (born February 17, 1959) is an American former competitive swimmer, U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame member, three-time Olympic gold medalist, and member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame. He is the chief fundraiser for USA Swimming as well as a swimming analyst for television networks ESPN and NBC. He has covered swimming at every Olympic Games since 1996, including the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics, the London 2012 Summer Olympics,[1] and the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics.

Rowdy Gaines
Rowdy Gaines in 1983
Personal information
Full nameAmbrose Gaines IV
National teamUnited States
Born (1959-02-17) February 17, 1959
Winter Haven, Florida
Height6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight161 lb (73 kg)
College teamAuburn University


Born in Winter Haven, Florida, Gaines unsuccessfully tried other sports during his teen-age years but turned to swimming as a Winter Haven High School junior where he advanced quickly and was offered a swimming scholarship to Auburn University. At Auburn he became a five-time NCAA champion under the training of former Auburn head swimming coach Richard Quick.

From 1978 to 1984, Gaines set ten world records. He was considered a favorite to win multiple gold medals at the 1980 Olympics. At the time he was the world record holder in the 100-metre and 200-metre freestyles. The 1980 boycott prevented Gaines from competing at the 1980 Moscow Olympics. “I felt physically at my peak in 1980—and mentally up, too. It was tough, really tough. I had the chance for four golds.” [2]

After graduating from Auburn in 1981, he stopped swimming for six months, thinking he had missed his opportunity to be an Olympic medalist, but was urged to resume swimming by his father. He qualified for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California and won the 100 meter freestyle. He also won two gold medals for relays, swimming the anchor legs for the U.S. team in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay and 4×100-meter medley relay.[3]

In August 1991, Gaines was temporarily paralyzed with Guillain–Barré syndrome. After a two-month hospitalization, he experienced a surprising full recovery attributed largely to his superb physical condition as a competitive swimmer. He eventually regained world-class times and, at the age of 35, became the oldest swimmer to qualify for the trials for the 1996 Summer Olympics. Ultimately, he chose not to compete in the trials for the 1996 Olympics but instead continued his career as a television commentator, covering swimming for NBC at the Games.

Gaines was Outreach Director for the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in Birmingham, Alabama from 1997 until 2003 when he moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado to become the Chief Fund-raising and Alumni Officer for USA Swimming. In December 2007, Gaines became a spokesperson for LIMU, a direct sales company which produces a line of energy drinks.

Gaines still holds masters long course world records in several freestyle events. At the 2011 Short Course Masters Nationals, Gaines broke his own national record in the 50–54 division 50 yard freestyle (21.36),[4] notable in that he did the swim without the use of a technical suit (now banned). On July 16, 2011, Gaines broke the 50–54 Age Group record in the long course 100m freestyle with a time of 54.6.[5] Gaines resides in Lake Mary, Florida where he is Executive Director of Rowdy's Kidz, a charitable program sponsored by LIMU. His wife, Judy, and he have four daughters: Emily, Madison, Savanna and Isabelle. He joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 1998.

Gaines is also a member of the board of directors of Photetica,[6] a low level laser based medical technology company based in Austin, Texas.[7] Photetica is in the clinical trial stage in oncology research.[8]


  • International Swimming Hall of Fame[9]
  • U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame
  • Alabama Sports Hall of Fame
  • Florida Sports Hall of Fame[10]
  • 1982 McDonald's Spirit Award[10]
  • 2007 NCAA Silver Anniversary Award[10]
  • Southeastern Conference Athlete of the Year 1981

See also


  1. Frager, Ray (July 2008) "Medium Well: Your NBC Olympics lineup – A blog on sports media, news and networks". Archived from the original on August 20, 2008. Retrieved November 8, 2011.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link).
  2. "Rowdy Gaines: The Importance of Swimming Regret-Free". October 23, 2018. Retrieved October 30, 2018.
  3. Rowdy Gaines Archived November 7, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. "Results". Archived from the original on May 4, 2011. Retrieved May 2, 2011.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link). 2011 Spring National Championships.
  5. Keith, Braden (July 16, 2011). "In Briefs: Rowdy Gaines Breaks Masters World Record in Japan | SwimmersCircle | Where Swimmers, Coaches and Fans Belong". SwimmersCircle. Archived from the original on July 21, 2011.
  6. Rowdy Gaines
  7. International Swimming Hall of Fame, Honorees, Rowdy Gaines (USA). Retrieved March 17, 2015.
  8. "Former Auburn Swimmers Denniston and Gaines Receive NCAA Awards". Auburn University Athletic Department. January 7, 2007. Retrieved January 8, 2007.


  • Caraccioli, Jerry, & Tom Caraccioli, Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games, New Chapter Press, Washington, D.C. (2009). ISBN 978-0-942257-54-0.
  • De George, Matthew, Pooling Talent: Swimming's Greatest Teams, Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, Maryland (2014). ISBN 978-1-4422-3701-8.

Preceded by
Chris Cavanaugh
Men's 50-meter freestyle
world record-holder (long course)

April 10, 1980 – April 10, 1980
Succeeded by
Bruce Stahl
Preceded by
Jonty Skinner
Men's 100-meter freestyle
world record-holder (long course)

April 3, 1981 – August 6, 1985
Succeeded by
Matt Biondi
Preceded by
Sergey Kopliakov
Men's 200-meter freestyle
world record-holder (long course)

April 11, 1980 – June 21, 1983
Succeeded by
Michael Gross
Preceded by
Swimming World
World Swimmer of the Year

Succeeded by
Alex Baumann
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