Rowdy Gaines

Rowdy Gaines Headshot

Swimmer • Olympian • Sportcaster

Birth Name: Ambrose Gaines IV

Birth Date: February 17, 1959

Age: 65 years old

Birth Place: Winter Haven, Florida

A three-time Olympic gold medalist in swimming, Rowdy Gaines' tremendous athleticism and dedication allowed him to set and break records for over two decades while also continuing to represent his sport as a television commentator and fundraiser for the USA Olympic swimming team.

Born Ambrose Gaines IV on February 17, 1959 in Winter Haven, Florida, he fell into swimming primarily due to his inability to land on a team for any of the other sports offered at Winter Haven High School. Gaines displayed a natural talent for swimming, and eventually earned a scholarship in the sport to Auburn University. There, under the direction of coach Richard Quick, he won five National Collegiate Athletic Association championships, which soon earmarked him as a contender in the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.

But the United States' boycott of the games prevented him from competing, and after graduating from Auburn in 1981, Gaines stopped swimming, believing that his dreams of becoming an Olympic medalist had been dashed. With the encouragement of his father, he soon returned to the sport, and achieved even greater acclaim, setting world records in the 100-meter freestyle in 1981 and the 200-meter freestyle the following year.

In 1984, Gaines achieved his dream of winning gold at the Olympics when he captured medals in the 100-meter freestyle and as part of the 4x100-meter freestyle relay and 4x100-meter medley rally. Following his triumph, Gaines retired from competitive swimming and served as both a coach and commentator for NBC Sports' Olympic swimming coverage, beginning with the trial competition in 1992.

During this period, Gaines was left temporarily paralyzed by Guillan-Barre syndrome, but recovered quickly due to his exceptional physical condition. He returned to swimming and became the oldest swimmer to qualify for trials at the 1996 Summer Olympics. However, Gaines decided against competing and instead returned to his analyst job with NBC.

In addition to his television duties, Gaines also served as the chief fundraiser for the USA Swimming team, and founded his own children's charity, Rowdy's Kidz. He also continued to swim on the masters' circuit, where he continued to break records in the ages 50-54 group, including his own national record in the 50-yard freestyle in 2011.


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