Swimming | USA vs East Germany | Ep 16

USA vs East Germany |Everyone in the pool!  Just don’t challenge our guests to a race.  

Most rivalries end with the competitive years of those involved having concluded.  The rivalry stories we hear today ended when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989.

For U.S. swim teams, the East Germans posed a particularly tough rivalry as our guests will explain.  This was a rivalry born of international competition, the Olympics being THE highlight of their matchup. 

Our guests today were involved in this rivalry at the highest levels.  They came to the competition in different eras, but both faced East German teams when they were at their best.

The Rivals | USA vs East Germany

Rowdy Gains

Rowdy Gaines was the World Swimmer of the Year in 1980.  He came from the collegiate program at Auburn during which time he began his representation of the U.S. in international events.

He won three gold medals at the 1984 Olympics.  His time in the 100-meter freestyle set a world record as did the 4x100m freestyle and 4x100m medley relay teams he anchored.  He also collected nine national and two Pan-American titles.

There could have been more gold in his collection, but the U.S. boycotted the 1980 Olympics in which he would have competed.

His freestyle form garnered him the title of “The World’s Fastest Swimmer.”

John Naber was the World Swimmer of the Year in 1976.  He swam at USC from 1974 -1977 when the program won 4 consecutive national titles.  He was part of arguably the most dominant Olympic team ever when in 1976 the men’s swim team won 23 of a possible 30 medals.  

Naber won four gold medals setting world records in all four events!  John gained the title of “Back Stroke King” for his amazing career performances.

Why do both Gaines and Naber consider the East Germans to have been such a forceful rival?  How did each view the rumors of cheating by the East Germans?  What were the relationships with East German competitors both at the time and in the years since they competed?

Rowdy and John have a friendship of some 40 years, both having followed the careers of one another with avid interest.  Now, these two friends tell us the stories they have shared with one another over the years regarding the competitors they remember so well.

Let’s jump in.

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