Ambrose "Rowdy" Gaines, IV is one the great American sprint freestylers of all-time. Gaines swam at Auburn where he was a five-time NCAA Champion. In the later 1970s and early 1980s Gaines was the top sprinter in the world and would have been favored to win multiple gold medals at the 1980 Olympics, had the US not boycotted. In 1981 he broke the world 100 metre freestyle record, and he also set an early world record in the 50 metre freestyle in 1980. Gaines returned for the 1984 Olympics, although he was not as dominant as he had been five years prior, yet still came back to win gold in the 100 freestyle. He added gold medals in the medley relay and the 4x100 free relay. At the 1978 World Championships, Gaines won gold medals in both freestyle relays and a silver in the 200 free. At the 1982 Worlds, he won golds in all three relays, and added two silver medals in the 100 and 200 freestyles.
After the 1984 Olympics Gaines stopped competing and became a swimming announcer for television. In 1991 he developed Guillain-Barré syndrome which hospitalized him for two months. He fully recovered, using swimming for therapy, and returned to the pool and actually qualified for the 1996 US Olympic Trials, although he chose not to compete. Gaines has continued to compete into his late 50s in masters events, setting multiple records. He is Executive Director of Rowdy's Kidz, a charitable program in Alabama. He was Outreach Director for the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in Birmingham, Alabama from 1997 until 2003 when he moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado to become the Chief Fund-raising and Alumni Officer for USA Swimming. Gaines is a member of the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, and the Florida Sports Hall of Fame.
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