The USA Swimming Foundation has given Rowdy Gaines the Make a Splash Hero Award to recognize his ‘efforts as a champion for keeping kids safe in the water.’ Gaines, who won 3 Olympic gold medals in 1984 in the 100 free, 400 free relay, and 400 medley relay, is an Olympian and ambassador for the foundation, in addition to his roles as an on-air analyst for most American swim meets.
Gaines travels around the country promoting the water safety initiatives of the USA Swimming Foundation, and including participating in all four stops of the 2018 Make a Splash tour (the only person to do so). Gaines is also a 2015 winner of the USA Swimming Award, which the organization likes as ‘the highest honor in the sport of swimming’ (in the eye of the beholder), in recognition of his work in the sport.
“It’s not about me,” Gaines said of the honor. “I’m really not that big of a deal in the whole grand scheme of things. I’m a very small cog on a huge wheel. That’s the way I kind of look at it. And, there are a lot of people that are making a huge difference, and when I hear the word hero, that’s just a term that I don’t like to use with me.
“There are so many heroes in the world, our first responders, our military and the people that are in the fight every day, like the people here at the USA Swimming Foundation or like other foundations across the country and the world that are fighting for water safety. So for me it’s something that was, to use an overused word, it was certainly humbling, and it was something that I was certainly proud of, but it was more an acceptance of ‘hey, this is for all of us that are in the fight together.’ It literally tears me apart when I hear or I read about a child that drowns, because I know how unnecessary it is. When we lose children to drowning it’s horrific because that family has to live with those circumstances for the rest of their lives. But water should bring joy to a person’s life.
“Most communities in those underserved communities are where kids are drowning. It can happen everywhere. Trust me. It is not biased against any race or religion or gender. But most of those underserved communities are drowning at an alarming rate, and so when we go out to those places where those families live, it means a lot to me because I know we’re teaching them.”