USA Swimming – 20 Question Tuesday: Rowdy Gaines
BY BOB SCHALLER//CORRESPONDENTHe is the most recognizable voice in the sport — maybe in all of sports — and the kindest smile in it as well. Rowdy Gaines’ love for swimming carries him through. That, and his job in Florida growing the sport. But he was also the greatest in the world at one time, and his legion of fans remember those days just as fondly. But like he’s doing now as a professional, his focus is on looking forward, as he explains in this week’s 20 Question Tuesday.
1. How much fun was calling the Rio Games with such a historic performance by the U.S.?Rowdy: It really was. I mean, going in I didn’t know for sure what to expect. Even after Trials a lot of people thought this was a team that would underperform, especially based on World Championships the year before. But when we visited the team in Atlanta at Training Camp we thought it would be special — but how special? We really had no idea — certainly not as special as they came together to be in Rio. Afterward, this was my favorite Olympics — as far as the “team” goes.
2. Not your first rodeo, that’s pretty high praise?Rowdy: Sydney was a personal favorite for me because of the love Australians have for swimming. From a team perspective and the way this team jelled though it just made these Olympics the one I enjoyed the most. This was my 8th one, including my own, and I definitely enjoyed this team the most.
3. Did you see Michael Phelps swimming this well, this determined, in Rio, especially at his age?Rowdy: Going in, I certainly felt like Michael was going to win a lot of gold medals. Even after Trials I felt like that, I really did. I know in a couple of interviews they put me on the spot and I said four golds, a silver and bronze. I wasn’t too far off (Phelps had 5 golds and won silver in the 100 fly). I just felt like he was going to go out in style.
4. How do you put that into words or make sense of it?Rowdy: He had done everything that is necessary to put himself in position to go out on top. He can’t control what everyone else was doing. But he controlled what he was doing. When that happens with Michael, when he does everything in his power, he can control his own destiny and no one is going to beat him. And that’s pretty much what happened.
5. And the loss — is it really right to call a great swim and silver in the 100 a loss? — to a classy young man like the University of Texas’ Jacob Schooling, by way of Singapore, still produced a great moment, didn’t it?Rowdy: It did, and what a race. Michael ran into (laughs) a youth problem in the 100 fly but he was pretty much perfect outside of that, and he was pretty great in that race when you look at it.
6. Him lifting himself out of the water in the 200 IM, just leaving no doubt, full-on beast mode, no being denied, is that your best memory of him from these Games?
Rowdy: He certainly did it all in that event — what a breaststroke leg, too. That and the 800 free relay were something to behold. It was one of the greatest memories he gave us — and there are so many memories. I was asked this the other night, how do I pick my favorite swim? And that’s hard, because Cody Miller’s individual race, where he won bronze, wasn’t even a gold medal swim and it would be among my favorite races for what he drew deep and pulled from himself for that medal. Kathleen Baker was another one who dug down and pushed herself to one of the most memorable swims of the Games. And that’s not even getting to Katie Ledecky, Simone Manuel, Ryan Murphy, Lilly King or Maya DiRado — all of whom could in any Games, have been the most memorable and historical athletes of the Games. As far as the moment, in terms of Michael, I’d probably go with the 800 because seeing how he literally left it all in the water and his teammates had to help him out — that’s what the greatest Olympian of all time does when it counts, he lays it all on the line. It’s been a real honor and privilege to say I’ve pretty much covered every single one of his races – certainly his major races. To see him go out on top, it’s what you’d expect from the greatest, but what he had to ask of himself where he was in his career, well, that makes his legacy even more impressive and inspiration to more generations.
7. I guess having first interviewed him and Bob over the longest lunch in the world in 1998, seeing this Michael Phelps was transformative for me — no angry young man who seemed to disconnect at times, just this wonderful, truly gold medal soul and spirit, is that right in your mind too?Rowdy: It is and I loved that he could go out on top and be an elder statesman and show such great leadership. First of all though, a great spouse can do that for you — and Nicole is all that and more, she truly is. And a baby does that too you. I think when you have a child, and you know this as well as I do, it changes your perspective on life. The grudges and anger fade, replaced by the joy of the new life and what really matters — that’s where your …READ MORE