Rowdy Memories; Science Success

Like much of the world, I’ve been glued to the television for more than a week now trying to catch every magical moment of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.

Of course, that’s simply impossible when you consider that NBCUniversal is delivering an unprecedented 5,535 hours of Olympics coverage – surpassing the coverage of the 2008 Beijing Olympics by a whopping 2,000 hours.

But there is one sport that I’ve tried not to miss, and that’s swimming – and it has nothing to do with Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte or Missy Franklin.

Sure, the story lines are fantastic and the drama is at times incredibly intense, but what motivates me to rush home every night is to hear those stories told through the eyes of commentator Rowdy Gaines.

Gaines is a part of NBC Sports’ 115-member roster of announcers. And while Bob Costas, Mary Carillo, Al Michaels and Dan Patrick are the big names in the booth and on the desk, what lures me to the tube is Olympians like Gaines, who exudes credibility and oozes excitement.

Yes, Al Michaels will always be one of the most famous commentators of all time with his memorable “Do you believe in miracles?” call at the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympic Games.

But there’s something special about the style of Gaines and the chemistry he shares with Dan Hicks that viewers truly enjoy. Their success is largely attributed to Gaines’ vast knowledge of the sport and his genuine heart.

Twenty years ago I saw his heart when I got the chance to sit down with him and “talk story” about his performance at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, where he won three gold medals at the age of 25. Gaines had moved to Hawaii in 1989 and was working as general manager of The Oahu Club in Hawaii Kai.

I was a young sports reporter, producing my first documentary for KHON2. The subject was Hawaii’s Olympians, and although Gaines was originally from Florida, he was very much a part of our community and proud of it.

I still remember how nervous I was before the interview started, knowing I was about to talk to the man who was once considered the fastest human in the water while he was an All-American at Auburn University.

Gaines quickly put me at ease and gladly shared his memories of the ’84 games.

He also spoke openly about being diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome in August 1991. The rare neurological disorder, which causes the immune system to attack the body’s nerves, left him paralyzed for more than two weeks.

He was thoughtful and held nothing back, and I walked away feeling privileged to hear his story firsthand. Several years later, Gaines moved back to Alabama to touch more lives with his inspirational life story.

I never forgot that conversation with Gaines who went on to compete again at the sport’s highest level, even qualifying for the trials for the 1996 Summer Olympics at the age of 35. But instead of competing in Atlanta, he opted to share his expertise as a television commentator. He has returned to the pool at the Summer Olympic Games ever since, sharing that same heart that I saw more than two decades ago.

Surfriders ride wave to success in Florida.

Here’s an update on a story we brought you in mid-June:

Congratulations are in order for the Kailua High School’s Underwater Robotics Team, which competed in the Marine Advanced Technology Education International Robotics Competition in Orlando, Fla.

According to team adviser and mentor Len Poleshaj, 570 teams competed internationally, and the top 10 percent were invited to compete at the international competition in Orlando.

The Kailua Surfriders – Sam Rasay, Austin Vegas, Romnick Vamolja, Jacob Valencia, Michael Sabate, Sam Walters, Ipo Silva, Ted Cabana and Chris Campos – placed fifth overall, which put them in the top 1 percent of teams in the world!

It will be interesting to see what more these young men will be accomplishing in the future.