Rowdy Gaines On COVID And The 2021 Olympics: GMM presented by

Gold Medal Minute presented by

Three-time Olympic Champion and NBC Sports Voice of Swimming, Rowdy Gaines, drops in on this Gold Medal Minute (30 minute) takeover of the SwimSwam Podcast.

During the COVID-19 (coronavirus) shutdown, Rowdy Gaines has been top of mind. Rowdy lived through the 1980 Olympic Boycott, and his emotions are layered and complex at this time.  The Boycott experience is not the same as this pandemic shutdown, but there are some similarities, certainly with the Olympic postponement. Rowdy understands how much time matters when you’re preparing for the Olympics. Many of his peers, stars in 1980, didn’t make it through to the 1984 Games.  Rowdy has context and wisdom to share on this topic.

I’ve known Rowdy for 35 years. I was there for his first network television gig at the 1986 Goodwill Games (my first A-USA National Team trip when I was 17).  Rowdy was the same then as he is now. While many of us know him as our sport’s analyst, behind the scenes he’s a calming presence.  Representing Team USA can be stressful.  Rowdy reads you and shares first-hand experience to ease your anxiety. He did that back in 1986, and year after year, and even into my retirement.  Moreover, Rowdy shared some over-arching wisdom (and John Naber did as well).

“Melvin,” and I was Melvin Jr. back then, “you may well go on to win Olympic gold. If you do, remember you’re not a star, you are an ambassador of the sport.  Being an ambassador means that 50% of what you do in swimming will be charity, the other 50% will be work. And the older you get, the charity will mean a lot more to you than the work you do for payment…and, you may not believe this, but the color of your medal will mean less and less as you get older. You’ll remember the friendships and value them above all else.”

Rowdy’s message, which he echoed over time, proved to be the most prophet I’ve experienced in swimming.

I hope you like the podcast.


Rowdy was a 1:33.91 200 yard freestyle in 1981 at NCAA Champs. If Rowdy had been trained to streamline and dolphin kick underwater (like everyone today), and if he had been wearing a cap and a techsuit, how fast would he, could he, have swum?

Follow Rowdy Gaines on Instagram here.

Follow Gold Medal Mel Stewart on INSTAGRAM HERE


This is a Gold Medal Media production presented by Host Gold Medal Mel Stewart is a 3-time Olympic medalist and the co-founder of, a Swimming News website.

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2 years ago

Worst commentator ever. Always discrediting swimmers only to get embarrassed when they win. Rowdy makes swimming hard to watch.

2 years ago

Mel with the Gashouse (Gastonia) shoutout!

2 years ago

Rowdy would have been 1:30 with the dolphin kicks and tech suits

2 years ago

Little surprised Sippy Woodhead didn’t come up in the discussion about the 1980 boycott. Oh, what might have been! Ranked #1 in the world in all 4 freestyle events at the time, she had a legitimate shot at 6 medals. That would have been unprecedented then, and has only been accomplished by two female swimmers since.

She made the team in ’84, but injury and illness had chipped away at her greatness. One of the greatest female American swimmers of all time ended her career with but a single Olympic medal, the silver she won in the 200 free in LA.

2 years ago

That’s cute that generational difference with Coleman (sp)… he kinda looks like a younger Aaron Peirsol to me

Ol' Longhorn
2 years ago

To answer your question about Rowdy, if he’d been in today’s dryland mode (train to be athletes), had the technique (especially head “buried” compared to Rowdy’s day — better body line and the dolphin kicks off the walls) advantages and the other things you mentioned, he’d be a 1:30 or better. And Andy Coan with the same advantages of today would have been right there with him.

Reply to  Gold Medal Mel Stewart
2 years ago

Man – You guys are OLD. Talking bout 70s, 80s and 90s only makes me think of warm weather. The swimmers and coaches back in those dark ages musta been pretty dumb.

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Ladyvoldisser
2 years ago

Yeah. George Haines, Jim Councilman, Eddie Reese, etc., all total idiots.

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Gold Medal Mel Stewart
2 years ago

One of my favorite photos of the old style is Don Schollander swimming free with the water line at his eyebrows.

Ol' Ag
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
2 years ago

Yes, eyebrows at the waterline and flips turns only if he didn’t need a breath.

Mr Stay Puff
2 years ago

He would have been a sub 1:30 in 200 with the tech of today & better underwaters. He always looks so grumpy. He needs a marshmallow.

Reply to  Mr Stay Puff
2 years ago

Nah , he was utterly honest on that one & i fully appreciated that from him . Actually , it was great to hear Rowdy out of the commentator context he is often remembered for , for once . It was a great interview .

2 years ago

Rowdy must have been so hyped the first time he saw Mel swim and realised he could now talk about which side flyers were breathing to.

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Togger
2 years ago

Brilliant comment.

Daniel Smith
Reply to  Gold Medal Mel Stewart
2 years ago

Only down side of going to OTrials was NOT hearing Rowdy’s calls in the semis and finals.

Reply to  Gold Medal Mel Stewart
2 years ago

Mel’s comment makes a lot of sense to me. As a non-swimmer parent of an age grouper, Swim Swam has been a huge educational resource to me. I would also say the Swim Swam comment section has probably been as equally educational (and certainly more entertaining) in helping me learn about the sport. That said, I’ve always winced a bit at the heat Rowdy takes here in the comments. But Mel’s comments sort of put things into perspective for me – what comes across as passion and exuberance for the sport to a non-swimmer newbie like me is likely regarded as “captain obvious” commentary to the well-informed crowd in Swim Swam.

I think I heard Rowdy say he has made… Read more »

About Gold Medal Mel Stewart

Gold Medal Mel Stewart

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, …

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