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America’s favorite Olympic swimming broadcaster ‘owes Auburn everything.’ Here’s why.

AUBURN, Ala. — If you have watched Olympic swimming for the past twenty years, then you know the voice of Rowdy Gaines. Along with his broadcast partner Dan Hicks, Gaines has covered all of NBC’s Olympic swimming events since the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Together, the duo have covered what has been deemed the golden age of USA swimming. From Lilly King to Ryan Lochte, Gaines and Hicks have seen it all, including Michael Phelps’ record 19 gold medal races.

“This is our sixth Olympic games that we’ve done together. And every single one, he knows his stuff,” Gaines said in an interview. “He’s so good, because I’m not a broadcaster. I know swimming. I know how to talk about swimming, but he really helps me craft a lot of things. He’s just a huge mentor. And he’s also a very dear friend of mine, which helps a lot.”

But while many know the voice, fewer know the man. Gaines is an esteemed athletic alumnus of Auburn University, and a three-time Olympic swimming gold medalist. He competed in the 1984 Los Angeles Games and achieved what every swimmer dreams of. However, his success in 1984 was hampered by the disappointment of what could-have-been in 1980.

The United States sat out the 1980 Moscow games to protest the Soviet Union’s imperialistic war in Afghanistan. But to athletes like Gaines, the year was a missed opportunity.

“You just kind of feel, not only the joy [of ’84], but also a little bit of pain from 1980,” Gaines told AuburnTigers.com. “It’s not so much for me, because I had my day in the sun. I had the thrill of 1984. But I know when the Olympics come around, it affects those athletes who were part of ’80, who weren’t part of ’84 or ’76.”

Born a third generation Floridian, Gaines came to the Yellowhammer State when the Auburn Tigers offered him a scholarship for his swimming prowess. At Auburn he became a five-time NCAA champion under the training of former head swimming coach Richard Quick. From 1978 to 1984, Gaines set ten world records, and had the United States not boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics, he would have been a favorite to win multiple medals at the event.

“I guess, in simplicity, I owe Auburn everything. Auburn doesn’t owe me. They gave me so much. And I just feel like I could never pay back the University and the people around the University enough for what they gave me. When I come back, I just feel so at peace. It was a great place to grow up.”

While he currently lives in Florida, the swimmer definitely made his mark in Alabama. In addition to his outstanding collegiate career in the state, he also served as outreach Director for the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in Birmingham from 1997 until 2003.

But he still cannot stay away from his alma mater. The Olympic Broadcaster frequently returns to Auburn for swim camps and football games.

“My freshman year was the fall of ’77. Almost four decades [ago]. Auburn is and will always be my second home,” he said. “There’s nothing like coming back to Auburn and being a part of that community, and having gone to school there, and having grown from a boy to a man at Auburn.”

(h/t Auburn University Swim & Dive)

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