Countdown to Omaha: Rowdy Gaines

2016 Jun | By

The 2016 Olympic Swim Trials begin Sunday on NBC with coverage nightly in prime-time. We caught up with the man who will be calling the action, Rowdy Gaines. Gaines is a three-time Olympic gold medalist and has been NBC’s swimming analyst since the 1992 Barcelona Games. A tireless ambassador for the sport, his call of the 4x100m men’s freestyle relay from Beijing in which Jason Lezak out touched his French opponent to grab gold has become the stuff of Internet legend.

SwimOutlet Blog: The Swim Trials are such a special event not just the swim calendar but the entire sports calendar. What gets your juices flowing around Trials?

Rowdy Gaines: It’s a long 4 year journey for these athletes. You can feel their emotions starting to build about a year out and by the time we get to trials you can cut the tension with a knife. It’s the Super Bowl for most of these swimmers and only a handful will go to the “Big Dance” and make that their Super Bowl…I love every minute of it.

SwimOutlet Blog: Omaha has done such a wonderful job turning this into a big event. What do you like best about the Trials returning to Omaha for a third time?

Rowdy Gaines: For selfish reasons alone the hotel across the street is magical. But the most important thing is the fact the people of Omaha and Nebraska are so genuine and helpful to all of us, not just the athletes. It is an incredible sports town and having the college World Series there helps to add to the excitement.

SwimOutlet Blog: What are your expectations for Michael Phelps going into Omaha and what should we be looking for in his swims in Omaha to see if his final Games can be history-making?

Rowdy Gaines: He was number one in the world last year in 3 events…you add 3 relays and that adds up to a lot of medals for the greatest Olympian of all time. I don’t believe there will be that perfect storm of 2008 but to be at the top of his game for almost 16 years is unbelievable. I can’t think of another athlete that has ever had a run of almost 2 decades at the top of their sport. He is simply amazing.

SwimOutlet Blog: While the mainstream focus will be on Phelps, we know there will be other breakout stars like Katie Ledecky. Tell us what makes her such a unique talent and who else from the U.S. are you looking to step up?

Rowdy Gaines: Katie is as dominant over the last 4 years as any swimmer in history (including Michael)…15 major international swims and 15 gold medals. Unless something dramatic happens she will add to that 15 in Rio. She has a humility and grace about her that comes along once a generation and after this summer will most likely become the greatest distance swimmer in history. She has an incredible family, is well grounded and has this whole “swim fast” thing in perspective. She just goes out and does her best and that’s refreshing.

We are in the Golden Age of big names in our sport. Michael, Katie, Missy and Ryan…first names are all you need. Throw in Nathan, Natalie, Tyler, Allison and Dana and the WOW factor is incredible.

SwimOutlet Blog: The U.S. has had incredible depth at the Olympics of late but at the 2015 Worlds, only two Americans (Ledecky & Ryan Lochte) won individual gold. Is there a source of concern at all for the U.S. team based on that performance last summer?

Rowdy Gaines: I don’t think so…last year was an anomaly because the team was chosen the year before and with so many meets last summer our best swimmers were spread out all over the place. You add up times from last summer and we once again would have dominated. The USA has been number one in the world in the sport of swimming for a reason. That tradition of excellence will continue this summer.

SwimOutlet Blog:  Lastly, we always ask athletes about their pre-game routines but you often bring as much energy and excitement to the pool for your TV broadcasts as the athletes. What's your key to your pre-game routine?!

Rowdy Gaines: Study, study, study…I know more about these athletes then they know about themselves! But seriously, its just preparation and we have an amazing team at NBC that are the epitome of professionalism. Its just a joy to go to work every day with this group. Dan Hicks (my partner) Mike Unger (the guru of swimming), Tommy Roy (our producer)…the list goes on and on.

SO Blog: Thanks so much for your time, Rowdy. We look forward to watching this week!

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