5 Questions with...Rowdy Gaines

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5 Questions with...Rowdy Gaines

CSN Chicago Senior Director of Communications
CSNChicago.com Contributor

Want to know more about your favorite Chicago media celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the city's most popular personalities on the spot with everyone's favorite local celeb feature entitled 5 Questions with...

On Wednesdays, exclusively on CSNChicago.com, its our turn to grill the local media and other local VIPs with five random sports and non-sports related questions that will definitely be of interest to old and new fans alike.

This weeks special guest ... one of the greatest U.S. Olympians ever, whose athletic skills and dedication to winning propelled him to set multiple swimming world records in the 1980sviewers will be seeing plenty of him during the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in London, as he is the primary swimming and open water analyst for NBC Sports over 5,500 hours of total Olympics coverage via its television and digital outlets ... a great athlete (with Chicago ties no less!), but an even better person for everything he does in the charitable community, here are 5 Questions with ... ROWDY GAINES!

BIO: One of the worlds fastest swimmers in the 1980s, Ambrose Rowdy Gaines IV now ranks as the most experienced television analyst in the sport. At the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London, Gaines will serve as an analyst for swimming and open water. He has been NBCs Olympic swimming analyst since the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Gaines set world records in the 100-meter freestyle in 1981, the 200-meter freestyle in 1982 and capped off his phenomenal career by winning three gold medals for the United States at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. After entering the 1984 Olympic trials as a past his prime long-shot to make the team, he set an Olympic record in the 100-meter freestyle, and helped establish a world record by anchoring the 4100-meter freestyle relay team. He completed the gold-medal triple by swimming the freestyle anchor of the 4100-meter medley, again setting Olympic and world records. Gaines also was a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team, which did not compete in Moscow because of the U.S. boycott.

After retiring, Gaines turned to broadcasting, and will be calling his sixth Olympic Games as the expert analyst of swimming for NBC's broadcast of the Olympic Games in London this year.

Named the World Swimmer of the Year in 1981, Gaines was an eight-time NCAA champion at Auburn University and was honored as the Southeastern Conferences Athlete of the Year in 1981. He is a member of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame and later served as the Hall's Executive Director. Gaines also served as the Chief Fundraising and Alumni Officer at USA Swimming, the national governing body for the sport in the U.S.

In addition to parenting and broadcasting, Gaines volunteers for the United Cerebral Palsy Foundation. He also is on the Board of Directors of Swim Across America, an organization designed to raise funds for cancer research.

Gaines is the Executive Director of Rowdy's Kidz, a wellness initiative developed and supported by The Limu Company that reaches out to children across the country.

Gaines and his wife, Judy, reside in Lake Mary, Fla., with their four daughters.

1) CSNChicago.com: Rowdy, it's a great honor having you in the spotlight for this special edition of CSNChicago.coms 5 Questions with ... As one of the greatest Olympic athletes in U.S. history, along with being the lead analyst for NBC Sports 2012 London Summer Games swimming and open-water coverage, let's start off with this one: In your opinion, how has your sport changed in terms of athlete preparation/training over the years since your record-setting performances during in the 1980s?

Gaines: Thank you Comcast SportsNet Chicago! I have a lot of roots in Chi-Town! My father lived there for 25 years and sister is still there, so it's my second home.

Swimming has changed dramatically since I retired in 1984. Diet is a big one of course, but also the training now is much more specific to the event and stroke you swim. There is a lot more testing done to help the athletes monitor their training routine, but the biggest change of all has been money. The athlete can now make a living swimming where in 1984 you couldn't. In fact, when I won in 1984, I became the fourth-oldest swimmer in history to win a gold medal at 25 ... and now the average age for the men's team going into London is 26!

2) CSNChicago.com: It may be a tall order for the U.S. Olympic men's swim team to duplicate the amazing run of medals they garnered during the 2008 Games in Beijing (scoring ten world records no less), but they do have the one guy that all eyes will be watching once again: the one and only Michael Phelps. What's your prediction for this year's team and can Phelps rack up a gold in every event he's in this go-around?

Gaines: USA has a great team with many veterans like Phelps leading the way, but 28 out of the 49 swimming Olympians this year are first-timers, so it's a very young team. Michael will definitely win a lot of golds in London, but that perfect storm of 2008 will be hard to duplicate. Going 8-for-8 will be impossible in one way because he is only swimming seven events, but the world is a much tougher place thanks largely to Michael. Everyone had to ramp it up if they were going to try and compete with him. I think we are set for an epic duel between Phelps and Ryan Lochte, who has been the best swimmer in the world the last three years. They will swim against each other in two events (200 and 400 IM) but will have to swim WITH each other in possibly two relays ... rivals and teammates!

On the women's side, keep an eye out for Missy Franklin. She is a sensational young 17-year-old who is swimming seven events and has a legitimate shot of winning seven medals, something a female swimmer has never done in Olympics history.

3) CSNChicago.com: You've been a part of NBC Sports Olympic coverage since the '96 Games in Atlanta. How much preparation goes into your broadcasts? Walk us through that process.

Gaines: Good lord, do you have a couple of hours?! It takes a lot of studying and a lot of preparation, but i'ts something I enjoy because I love the sport so much. We go to France on July 20 to hang out with Team USA at their training camp for a couple of days and then go to London July 23 for rehearsals, meetings and more studying before it all begins July 28 when I will be at the pool from about 7am until well after 11pm for eight straight days. We will call some of the prelims and then finals at night. We have an amazing team with our producer Tommy Roy, director Drew Escoff, the greatest play-by-play man/wonderful friend Dan Hicks and so many others who make my job so much easier.

4) CSNChicago.com: As you well know, our city of Chicago lost out on their chance of hosting the 2016 Summer Games. Did we ever have a legit shot in your mind?

Gaines: I really did think Chicago was the single best bid city and felt they deserved to host those games. And I thought they were going to be the front runner. It wasn't in the cards I guess with the IOC and, although Rio will do a great job, I still think the powers that be will be sorry that they did not choose Chicago.

5) CSNChicago.com: It has to be acknowledged that you're a great leader in giving back to the community via all your charity endeavors. Were interested in hearing more about Rowdy's Kidz. Explain what that organization is all about.

Gaines: I work for the best company in the world, LIMU! When I started to work for them full time five years ago, our owner and CEO Gary Raser came to me and said he wanted to make difference in young children's lives. So he came up with the idea of Rowdy's Kidz. It is the charitable arm of our company where I am able to go all over the country and do free swim clinics for kids (and sometimes adults!) who wouldn't normally be able to afford having an Olympian come and do something like this.

I not only do the clinic, but I get to go various schools in the community, as well as children's hospitals. I didn't start swimming until I was 17, so my message is it's never too late to achieve your dreams because I'm living proof of that. I talk about living a healthy lifestyle because that is what we are all about as a company. I have loved every minute of it and my family and I are fortunate to be living our dream every day.

Gaines LINKS:

Official Rowdy Gaines website

NBCOlympics.com

Rowdys Kidz organizationinformation

Rowdy Gaines on Facebook

Rowdy Gaines on Twitter

Morning Update: Cubs pick up win No. 101, Sale leads White Sox past Rays

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Morning Update: Cubs pick up win No. 101, Sale leads White Sox past Rays

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John Lackey sees Cubs lining up for World Series run: ‘It’s all here’

John Lackey sees Cubs lining up for World Series run: ‘It’s all here’

PITTSBURGH — The Cubs have so much going for them, all this blue-chip talent, a clubhouse mix of young players and grizzled veterans, arguably the best manager in the game, an impactful coaching staff and a front office that blends scouting and analytics as well as anyone.

So, no, John Lackey is not at all surprised by the way this clicked into place, 101 wins and counting for the machine built with October in mind.

“Not really,” Lackey said after Tuesday night’s 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. “I had some pretty good offers from other people, and I chose this one for a reason. It’s all here.”

But to win the World Series — and get the jewelry Lackey talks about — you still need some luck, good health and the guts to perform in those Big Boy Games. That reality of randomness and matchups made a pregame announcement some 250 miles away from PNC Park so telling.

Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos tore the ACL in his right knee, ending his MVP-caliber season. The National League East champions will lose a .307 hitter with 22-homer power from the middle of their lineup and a veteran presence for a playoff rotation that will likely be without injured ace Stephen Strasburg (right elbow) in the first round.

“That’s a tough one when you lose your catcher, a guy who’s that significant for the pitching staff,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Think about the pitching staff — it’s so different when you know the guy back there is your guy and he knows what’s going on. The communication’s different. The trust factor, all that stuff is different.”

[SHOP CUBS: Get your NL Central champions gear right here]

Within that big-picture context, the Cubs survived as Lackey limited the checked-out Pirates (77-80) to one run across five innings in his fifth start since recovering from a strained right shoulder and coming off the disabled list. Maddon then used six different relievers — staying away from Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon and Aroldis Chapman — during a three-hour, 49-minute game that felt more like the Cactus League.

After defecting from the 100-win St. Louis Cardinals team the Cubs bounced out of last year’s playoffs, Lackey finished the regular season at 11-8 with a 3.35 ERA and 188 1/3 innings.

“I’m going to get to 200,” Lackey said.

Beyond wins and losses, Lackey called this season his career best in terms of “those numbers that they’ve made up in the last few years” like WHIP (1.04) and opponents’ OPS (.646) and whatever. And, no, he doesn’t know his WAR, either: “Not even close.”

Yes, the Cubs got the old-school attitude they wanted when they signed Lackey to a two-year, $32 million deal before the winter meetings. For all the talk about the pitching deficit and the New York Mets after their young guns swept the Cubs out of last year’s NL Championship Series, the Cubs are getting their money’s worth with a guy who will turn 38 in October.

The amazing Mets have lost three of those frontline starters — Matt Harvey (thoracic outlet syndrome), Jacob deGrom (nerve damage in his right elbow) and Steven Matz (bone spur in his left elbow) — and are still holding onto the first wild-card spot, which says something about this playoff field.

This doesn’t guarantee anything in October, but the Cubs are just about as close to full strength as they could reasonably hope now. Instead of the silence that would have come with losing an irreplaceable player like Ramos, the sound system in the postgame clubhouse blasted Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Notorious B.I.G. after their 101st win.

“Yeah, we lost Dexter (Fowler) for a bit,” Maddon said. “We lost (Kyle) Schwarber all year. Otherwise, when a couple pitchers got banged up, whether you’re talking about Rondon or Strop, I don’t think that our injuries have been as magnified because we’ve covered them pretty well.

“We still had our moments, like everybody else has. But when you get to right now, we’re getting well, and hopefully that trend continues. But to lose somebody of that magnitude for them, that’s got to be difficult.”