Featuring one of the greatest comeback stories in swimming history, the latest chapter in ESPN Films’ SEC Storied series is “Rowdy.” Premiering Monday, July 16 at 7 p.m. ET on SEC Network, the film chronicles Rowdy Gaines’ career in and out of the pool, including overcoming the adversity of the 1980 Olympic boycott and his battle with Guillain-Barre Syndrome. “Rowdy” is presented by Chick-fil-A.
The film, directed by SportsCenter anchor and “Shaq & Dale” director Hannah Storm, delves into the historic and inspiring story of Gaines’s life. Some of the sport’s biggest names appear in the film such as Michael Phelps, Mark Spitz and John Naber, as well as Auburn’s Pat Dye and Charles Barkley. The film was produced by Storm’s company, Brainstormin’ Productions, for ESPN Films and the SEC Network.
“I have known Rowdy since my days hosting Olympics at NBC and he has continued to be a friend, as well as my husband’s broadcast partner for swimming” says Storm. “His perseverance through heartache and serious health issues with relentless energy, humility and humor, made him the perfect subject to carry a film that evokes a spectrum of emotions. And it’s a great history lesson, as well.”
In the early 1980s, Auburn University boasted three superstar athletes who would become among the most famous names in the history of their sports. There was Charles Barkley, there was Bo Jackson, and then, there was Ambrose “Rowdy” Gaines IV. And the story of what Rowdy overcame during his time at Auburn, and in the years to follow, speaks to what he learned there and how the school, and its legendary coach Richard Quick, impacted the life of an Olympic champion.
Gaines was the best freestyle swimmer, not just in the college ranks, but the world when the United States boycotted the 1980 Olympics. The boycott devastated him, but he came back to be named SEC Athlete of the Year in 1981, beating out Herschel Walker. Training under Quick – Gaines, one of the elder statesmen of the team, came back to win an upset gold over German favorite Michael Gross in 1984 and two more in the relays.
In the years since, Gaines has been swimming’s greatest ambassador as a broadcaster, while also continuing to dominate competition in masters racing. There’s never been anyone in the sport quite like him, and Rowdy himself has long said, Auburn is where he grew “from a boy to a man.”
Advance press screeners of “Rowdy” are available upon request.
About SEC Storied
ESPN Films launched the SEC Storied documentary series in September 2011, presenting fans the opportunity to explore the rich athletic history of the Southeastern Conference. From extraordinary athletes and coaches to defining games and moments, the series has featured films that focus on the SEC’s recent and more distant past, including one of the most-viewed documentaries in ESPN history, “The Book of Manning.” In 2015, SEC Storied received its first two Sports Emmy nominations for both “Outstanding Sports Documentary” and “Outstanding Music Composition/Direction/Lyrics” with the film “It’s Time: The Story of Brad Gaines and Chucky Mullins.”
About SEC Network
The Southeastern Conference and ESPN launched SEC Network on August 14, 2014. The network televises over 45 SEC football games, 100 men’s basketball games, 60 women’s basketball games, 75 baseball games, and other events from across the SEC’s 21 sports annually. Programming includes in-depth analysis and storytelling in studio shows such as SEC Nation, daily news and information with SEC Now, original content such as SEC Storied and SEC Inside, and more. Hundreds of additional live events are available for streaming exclusively on SEC Network’s digital companion, SEC Network+, via the ESPN App and SECNetwork.com. The network has 70 million subscribers in the U.S. and is also available in more than 50 countries throughout Europe, Middle East and Africa via ESPN Player, ESPN’s sports streaming service in the region.
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