More than 130 swimmers dressed to impress and tuned into the 2020 World Swim Gala! The event was packed full of musical performances, inspiring stories and a dance party! 

3-time Olympic gold medalist, International Swimming Hall of Fame member and well-known swimming analyst Rowdy Gaines delivered a motivating keynote speech to help swimmers stay positive during the COVID-19 pandemic. As one of the most prominent personalities in swimming worldwide, swimmers of all ages look up to Rowdy and rely on his expert knowledge when watching elite races.

Watch Rowdy’s full keynote speech below!

Rowdy earned his gold medals at the 1984 Olympic Games, representing the United States:

  • Men’s 100m Freestyle
  • Men’s 4×100-meter Freestyle Relay
  • Men’s 4×100-meter Medley Relay

Related: World Swim Gala 2020 Recap

Looking Back

A self-proclaimed “swim nerd,” Rowdy reflected on memorable Olympic races he has called, including the women’s 4×200-meter freestyle relay at the 2004 Olympics, when Team USA broke a 17-year-old world record previously held by East Germany.

Related: Motor City Mile & Rowdy Gaines Swim Clinic

He also sympathized with the swimmers who are out of the pool right now, noting that he felt similarly disappointed when he was unable to compete in the 1980 Olympics due to a boycott. The United States chose not to attend the Olympics that year, which were held in the Soviet Union (now Russia). For Rowdy and many other athletes, the Olympics are the pinnacle of their career. Hundreds of American athletes had their one shot at the Olympics in 1980, and didn’t make the team in 1984 — they never competed.

Rowdy said that whether you’re an elite athlete handling the postponing of the 2020 Olympics or a swimmer who is sad that your local state meet is canceled, all swimmers are feeling similar these days.

A Global Community

The key difference between the COVID-19 pandemic and the 1980 Olympics, Rowdy said, is that the world is dealing with the same problem. We are a global community, and we will get through this together! 

Rowdy said he has always thought of the swimming community as a big family. You may not remember your medals, ribbons or best times, but you will remember the friendships you made in the sport. 

Rowdy started swimming very late — age 17 in 1976. He failed at 5 other sports before he found a home in swimming. He is still friends with swimmers from his high school and college teams, more than 40 years later. 

Staying Positive and Finding a Purpose

2016 SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES — Pictured: — (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC)

Rowdy said that we will look back on this time as a “blip on the radar,” and while we may be feeling a roller coaster of emotions now, we will come out of it motivated to get stronger. 

He noted that he believes everyone is put on the Earth for a reason — everyone has a special gift, whether that’s swimming or something else. We will each share our unique gift with the world. 

Be Proud

Rowdy said that the values swimmers learn in the sport are so important: dedication, responsibility, teamwork and goal setting become just as impactful to swimmers as the races and training. He said swimmers of all ages should be proud to be a part of the sport – swimming is not for the faint of heart. 

Q&A with Rowdy Gaines

After his keynote, Rowdy answered questions from the audience, including his top swimming moments, favorite swimmers in the sport and tips to stay in shape while pools are closed. 

Olympic medalist, author and motivational speaker Kaitlin Sandeno also spoke at the World Swim Gala. Watch Kaitlin’s keynote here! 

If you missed the World Swim Gala, check out a full recording below!

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