MEL STEWART Jr., aka Gold Medal Mel, won three Olympic medals at the 1992 Olympic Games. Mel’s best event was the 200 butterfly. He is a former World, American, and NCAA Record holder in the 200 butterfly.
As a writer/producer and sports columnist, Mel has contributed to Yahoo Sports, Universal Sports, and USA Swimming. Mel has also worked as an Olympic analyst for ABC, NBC, EPSN, FOX SPORTS and TBS.
Mel Stewart is a co-founder of SwimSwam.com where he manages all advertising partnerships.
At SwimSwam.com, Mel hosts Gold Medal Minute presented by SwimOutlet.com, a video series featuring the world’s fastest swimmers and Olympic medalists. See all Gold Medal Minute espisodes here.
LITTLE GOLD MEDAL MELVIN
As a child Mel was known as Little Melvin.
Mel lived in Gastonia, North Carolina, unitl the age of 7. His father, Big Melvin, and mother, Myra Stewart, moved the family 40 miles east to Charlotte, North Carolina after getting jobs working for Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, founders of the PTL Club, a Christian ministry and television talk show. Mel’s mother coached his sister, Kim Stewart, and he in a swimming pool directly under Jim Bakker’s television studio. Mel attributes his resistant to butterfly pain to his mother’s daily workouts which included 50 consecutive laps of the stroke.
By the age of nine, Mel’s parents put him under the tutelage of coach Frankie Bell at the Johnston Memorial YMCA.
Showing early promise in swimming, 16 top-10 national rankings in the 9-10 age group, Mel’s father began calling him Little Gold Medal Melvin after the 1968 Track and Field Olympic gold medalist Melvin Pender.
Frankie Bell developed Mel’s butterfly encouraging the side-breathing technique before Mel’s first 200 yard butterfly at the YMCA Nationals when he was 13. By the age of 15 Mel was the YMCA National Champion in the event.
By 1985 Jim Bakker’s PTL Television Network had fallen under harsh scrutiny by the media. See the PTL scandal and subsequent demise here.
In the fall of 1985 and in the wake of the PTL scandal, Mel’s mother and father enrolled him in a boarding school in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, the Mercersburg Academy. Mel attended on a financial scholarship underwritten by George Baxter (Mercersburg Class of 1936).
George Baxter became a close mentor to Mel, helping him focus on achieving his goals academically and in pool.
Mercersburg Academy Head Swim Coach, John Trembley, was a former college swimming star, the first man to win three individual events at NCAA DI Swimming and Diving Championships. While Trembley was known for his sprint freestyle, he was a great butterflyer as well. He missed making the 1972 Olympic Team in the 100 meters butterfly by .02.
1988 Olympic Games
Trembley worked in concert with George Baxter, supporting Mel through his development at Mercersburg. By Mel’s senior year, 1988, he made his first Olympic Team. At the 1988 Olympic Games, Mel got 5th place in the 200 meters butterfly with a 1:59.19. Michael Gross won the event in 1:56.94.
University of Tennessee
John Trembley left his position at the Mercersburg Academy to become the Head Coach at the University of Tennessee. Mel and four other Mercersburg seniors followed Coach Trembley to Big Orange Country.
Mel developed further under Coach Trembley during his college career, winning 200 yard butterfly twice at the NCAA Championships. In 1991, Mel’s junior year, he won in 1:41.78, breaking the NCAA, American and US Open Record. That record swim stood for 16 years.
1991 World Championships
At the 1991 World Championships in Perth, Australia, Mel faced Michael Gross again in the 200 meters butterfly. Mel won, closing on the final lap breaking Michael Gross’ World Record. Mel was the first man under the 1:56 barrier, clocking a 1:55.69.
Mel turned pro after his junior year, signing with The Finals Swimwear company, PowerBar, and Nations Bank.
1992 Olympic Games
At the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Mel won gold in the 200 meters butterfly, gold in the 4×100 medley relay, and bronze as a part of the 4×200 freestyle relay.
Stewart is the co-founder and publisher of the swimming news website, SwimSwam.com, and a producer-director of commercials through his company, Gold Medal Media, LLC. In addition, he is currently an ambassador to the USA Swimming Foundation. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife Tiffany, and their daughter Bayley.