Three-time Olympic gold medal winner Rowdy Gaines was the headliner at a four-hour swim clinic presented by TNT Swimming on Saturday, June 16 at the Bounds Family YMCA in Daphne.  More than 100 people were in attendance including swimmers, parents and coaches from teams in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi.

“We were very fortunate that Rowdy agreed to come to Daphne and spend time with our team and guests,” said TNT Head Coach Jan Mittemeyer.  “We have a lot of people to thank for their support and cooperation in this endeavor.”

Several local businesses provided financial support for the event including the Bounds Family YMCA; Cox Family Charitable Trust; Cunningham, Bounds, Crowder, Brown and Breedlove; Mr. Arston Grant of E.G.M. L.L.C.; Sandy Sansing Hyundai of Mobile; Mary Beth Mantiply; Saad Health Care; and Sunflower Café and Fairhope Health Foods.

Coach Mittemeyer opened the clinic by introducing Gaines, considered to be Swimming’s greatest ambassador and once known as the fastest swimmer on earth.  Gaines is also known as the voice of swimming, and is most recognized as a television analyst with ESPN and NBC.  He called his fourth Olympic broadcast at the 2004 Games in Athens and will be calling the swimming action at the upcoming 2008 Olympics in Beijing.  

“Rowdy reached his peak as a competitive swimmer by winning 3 gold medals at the 1984 games in Los Angeles,” said Mittemeyer.  “He still has tremendous name recognition though, judging by the response we received for this clinic.”

“I was somewhat surprised that we had such an enthusiastic response from such a wide ranging geographic area,” said Mittemeyer. “We actually had kids here from as far away as Jackson, MS, Columbus, GA and Panama City, FL.”   

Gaines began his presentation by introducing himself to the swimmers and showing a short video of his gold medal swim in the 100 meter freestyle at the 1984 Summer Olympics. 

After watching the video Gaines told the group that an important factor in his gold medal performance was that his coach had prepared him to get into the starting position quickly because the starter was using a fast cadence before firing the starting pistol.  As a result, Gaines got a great start while the silver medal winner got off the blocks more slowly.

The group then moved to the pool where Gaines spent time explaining important aspects of front crawl (freestyle) technique and demonstrated drills designed to improve efficiency.  After each demonstration the group practiced the same techniques under the critical eye of Gaines who was assisted by TNT’s coaching staff, including Mary Hutson and Ross Moore.

After a short break where participants were treated to snacks and drinks provided by TNT parent volunteers, the group returned to the pool to work on backstroke, breastroke and butterfly. The instructional phase of the clinic finished with more work on starting and turning techniques, demonstrated by the Olympic Champion.

The most exciting and fun part of the clinic was when each and every swimmer had the opportunity to race Gaines.  As many as eleven swimmers at a time lined across the width of the pool and raced the Olympic sprinter for 25 yards of freestyle to the cheers of the other participants and onlookers.  There were several close races, but Gaines prevailed in every race, raising his arms in victory before he swam back to the opposite end of the pool to race his next heat of challengers.

Sue Ann Turnipseed from Spanish Fort and parent of two TNT swimmers thought that the clinic was an awesome experience.

“I had no idea the kids would have the opportunity to be in the water that long with Rowdy Gaines,” she said.  “Having him was truly a gift. I love that the kids and grown-ups were able to witness a great athlete and a great person. I think everyone there was motivated and inspired. The best was watching Rowdy race all the kids!”

Connor Funke, age 7 was just as enthusiastic. “I hope he comes again next year,” he said.

Following the water sessions, Gaines passed his Olympic gold medal throughout the group of swimmers, explaining that he had borrowed it from his mother, to whom he had given it after the 1984 games. 

“Rowdy told the kids that he gave his three medals to his coach, his mother and his father because without their support he wouldn’t have won them,” said Mittemeyer.

The clinic concluded with an inspirational message from Gaines to the young swimmers, encouraging them to pursue their dreams regardless of setbacks and to remember that the most important aspect of their lives was the love and support of their families, followed by pictures and autographs. 

“What makes Rowdy’s message so special is that he made the 1980 Olympic team and was expected to win five gold medals in Moscow, but he had to stick with it for four more years after the U.S. led boycott,” said Mittemeyer.  “The boycott ruined the lives of many of the affected athletes, but Rowdy turned it around and persevered to succeed in spite of such a dramatic setback.”

“I am extremely pleased to have had the experience of meeting Rowdy Gaines and for the kids and families of this area to have had the opportunity to interact with a person of his affirmative character, as well as his obvious swimming and coaching abilities,” said Mittemeyer.

TNT Swimming offers year round instruction, coaching, and competitive opportunities to children of all ages and abilities.  For information about the program visit the team web site at or call Coach Mittemeyer at 251-599-1019.