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5 Questions with...Rowdy Gaines

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5 Questions with...Rowdy Gaines

CSN Chicago Senior Director of Communications
CSNChicago.com Contributor

Want to know more about your favorite Chicago media celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the city's most popular personalities on the spot with everyone's favorite local celeb feature entitled 5 Questions with...

On Wednesdays, exclusively on CSNChicago.com, its our turn to grill the local media and other local VIPs with five random sports and non-sports related questions that will definitely be of interest to old and new fans alike.

This weeks special guest ... one of the greatest U.S. Olympians ever, whose athletic skills and dedication to winning propelled him to set multiple swimming world records in the 1980sviewers will be seeing plenty of him during the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in London, as he is the primary swimming and open water analyst for NBC Sports over 5,500 hours of total Olympics coverage via its television and digital outlets ... a great athlete (with Chicago ties no less!), but an even better person for everything he does in the charitable community, here are 5 Questions with ... ROWDY GAINES!

BIO: One of the worlds fastest swimmers in the 1980s, Ambrose Rowdy Gaines IV now ranks as the most experienced television analyst in the sport. At the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London, Gaines will serve as an analyst for swimming and open water. He has been NBCs Olympic swimming analyst since the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Gaines set world records in the 100-meter freestyle in 1981, the 200-meter freestyle in 1982 and capped off his phenomenal career by winning three gold medals for the United States at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. After entering the 1984 Olympic trials as a past his prime long-shot to make the team, he set an Olympic record in the 100-meter freestyle, and helped establish a world record by anchoring the 4100-meter freestyle relay team. He completed the gold-medal triple by swimming the freestyle anchor of the 4100-meter medley, again setting Olympic and world records. Gaines also was a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team, which did not compete in Moscow because of the U.S. boycott.

After retiring, Gaines turned to broadcasting, and will be calling his sixth Olympic Games as the expert analyst of swimming for NBC's broadcast of the Olympic Games in London this year.

Named the World Swimmer of the Year in 1981, Gaines was an eight-time NCAA champion at Auburn University and was honored as the Southeastern Conferences Athlete of the Year in 1981. He is a member of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame and later served as the Hall's Executive Director. Gaines also served as the Chief Fundraising and Alumni Officer at USA Swimming, the national governing body for the sport in the U.S.

In addition to parenting and broadcasting, Gaines volunteers for the United Cerebral Palsy Foundation. He also is on the Board of Directors of Swim Across America, an organization designed to raise funds for cancer research.

Gaines is the Executive Director of Rowdy's Kidz, a wellness initiative developed and supported by The Limu Company that reaches out to children across the country.

Gaines and his wife, Judy, reside in Lake Mary, Fla., with their four daughters.

1) CSNChicago.com: Rowdy, it's a great honor having you in the spotlight for this special edition of CSNChicago.coms 5 Questions with ... As one of the greatest Olympic athletes in U.S. history, along with being the lead analyst for NBC Sports 2012 London Summer Games swimming and open-water coverage, let's start off with this one: In your opinion, how has your sport changed in terms of athlete preparation/training over the years since your record-setting performances during in the 1980s?

Gaines: Thank you Comcast SportsNet Chicago! I have a lot of roots in Chi-Town! My father lived there for 25 years and sister is still there, so it's my second home.

Swimming has changed dramatically since I retired in 1984. Diet is a big one of course, but also the training now is much more specific to the event and stroke you swim. There is a lot more testing done to help the athletes monitor their training routine, but the biggest change of all has been money. The athlete can now make a living swimming where in 1984 you couldn't. In fact, when I won in 1984, I became the fourth-oldest swimmer in history to win a gold medal at 25 ... and now the average age for the men's team going into London is 26!

2) CSNChicago.com: It may be a tall order for the U.S. Olympic men's swim team to duplicate the amazing run of medals they garnered during the 2008 Games in Beijing (scoring ten world records no less), but they do have the one guy that all eyes will be watching once again: the one and only Michael Phelps. What's your prediction for this year's team and can Phelps rack up a gold in every event he's in this go-around?

Gaines: USA has a great team with many veterans like Phelps leading the way, but 28 out of the 49 swimming Olympians this year are first-timers, so it's a very young team. Michael will definitely win a lot of golds in London, but that perfect storm of 2008 will be hard to duplicate. Going 8-for-8 will be impossible in one way because he is only swimming seven events, but the world is a much tougher place thanks largely to Michael. Everyone had to ramp it up if they were going to try and compete with him. I think we are set for an epic duel between Phelps and Ryan Lochte, who has been the best swimmer in the world the last three years. They will swim against each other in two events (200 and 400 IM) but will have to swim WITH each other in possibly two relays ... rivals and teammates!

On the women's side, keep an eye out for Missy Franklin. She is a sensational young 17-year-old who is swimming seven events and has a legitimate shot of winning seven medals, something a female swimmer has never done in Olympics history.

3) CSNChicago.com: You've been a part of NBC Sports Olympic coverage since the '96 Games in Atlanta. How much preparation goes into your broadcasts? Walk us through that process.

Gaines: Good lord, do you have a couple of hours?! It takes a lot of studying and a lot of preparation, but i'ts something I enjoy because I love the sport so much. We go to France on July 20 to hang out with Team USA at their training camp for a couple of days and then go to London July 23 for rehearsals, meetings and more studying before it all begins July 28 when I will be at the pool from about 7am until well after 11pm for eight straight days. We will call some of the prelims and then finals at night. We have an amazing team with our producer Tommy Roy, director Drew Escoff, the greatest play-by-play man/wonderful friend Dan Hicks and so many others who make my job so much easier.

4) CSNChicago.com: As you well know, our city of Chicago lost out on their chance of hosting the 2016 Summer Games. Did we ever have a legit shot in your mind?

Gaines: I really did think Chicago was the single best bid city and felt they deserved to host those games. And I thought they were going to be the front runner. It wasn't in the cards I guess with the IOC and, although Rio will do a great job, I still think the powers that be will be sorry that they did not choose Chicago.

5) CSNChicago.com: It has to be acknowledged that you're a great leader in giving back to the community via all your charity endeavors. Were interested in hearing more about Rowdy's Kidz. Explain what that organization is all about.

Gaines: I work for the best company in the world, LIMU! When I started to work for them full time five years ago, our owner and CEO Gary Raser came to me and said he wanted to make difference in young children's lives. So he came up with the idea of Rowdy's Kidz. It is the charitable arm of our company where I am able to go all over the country and do free swim clinics for kids (and sometimes adults!) who wouldn't normally be able to afford having an Olympian come and do something like this.

I not only do the clinic, but I get to go various schools in the community, as well as children's hospitals. I didn't start swimming until I was 17, so my message is it's never too late to achieve your dreams because I'm living proof of that. I talk about living a healthy lifestyle because that is what we are all about as a company. I have loved every minute of it and my family and I are fortunate to be living our dream every day.

Gaines LINKS:

Official Rowdy Gaines website

NBCOlympics.com

Rowdys Kidz organizationinformation

Rowdy Gaines on Facebook

Rowdy Gaines on Twitter

Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

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USA Today Sports Images

Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

There’s, probably, only one position in sports that can match the you-had-one-job scrutiny of a placekicker attempting a critical field goal late in a football game. As in: If you make the kick, it was expected; if you miss it, well, you didn’t do the one thing you were brought on to do. 

The comparison here is a closer in baseball. The expectation is whoever is called upon with a one-to-three-run lead in the ninth inning will convert the save and win his team the game. 

But when a closer blows a save and is in the spotlight during baseball’s regular season, there’s always a game the next day or, at worst, in two days. The immediacy and pace of a Major League Baseball team’s schedule lends itself to closers having to “flush” a bad outing and move on to the next one, since it might be tomorrow. 

For Bears kicker Cody Parkey, though, he’s had to wait a week until he gets his next “meaningful” chance at making a field goal after missing a game-winning 53-yard attempt last weekend against the Miami Dolphins. But moving on from a critical missed kick has never, and is not, a problem for the fifth-year veteran. 

“(It takes) five minutes,” Parkey said. “You kick the ball, and if it doesn’t go in you’re not going to sit there and cry on the field, you’re going to continue to move on with your life. I don’t think there’s really much to it other than knowing you’re going to have to kick another one sometime throughout the season, next game, in the next week, you never know. You stay ready so you’ll be ready for the next week.”

Not allowing those missed kicks to fester is an important trait for a placekicker to possess. What helps Parkey quickly work through his misses is focusing on having a good week of kicking in practice, and also an even-keel mindset that’s been instilled in him since a young age. 

“I think I’ve always been pretty mellow,” Parkey said. “At a young age, my coaches told me never let the highs get to high, never let the lows get too low. And I’ve kind of taken that to heart. If I miss a game winner, make a game winner, I’m going to have the same demeanor. I’m just going to be super chill and knowing it’s a game, it’s supposed to be fun, we’re supposed to go out there and try our best. I put in a lot of work and I try my best on the field.”

That’s something, too, that special teams coach Chris Tabor sees in Parkey. 

“He's always been like that,” Tabor said. “He hit a good ball, his line was just off. In his career going in he was 7-of-8 over 50 yards. I'll be honest with you, I thought he was going to make it. And next time we have that situation, I know he will make it.” 

Age is just a number

Sunday will mark the 6th time in Tom Brady’s career that the 41-year-old has faced a head coach younger than him, but the first time it’ll be a coach other than Miami’s Adam Gase (who’s 40). Brady is 3-2 against Gase’s Dophins. 

Matt Nagy, meanwhile, is also 40. Brady just missed playing Kyle Shanahan (38) and Sean McVay (32), facing the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams in 2016, a year before both those youthful coaches were hired. 

Meanwhile, the youngest player on the Bears — 21-year-old Roquan Smith — was three years old when Brady made his unassuming NFL debut on Nov. 23, 2000. 

They said it

A couple of amusing one-liners out of Halas Hall this week…

Nagy, when it was brought to his attention that Mitch Trubisky (105.6) has a better passer rating than Brady (98.2), chuckled: “You want to say that one more time?” 

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, when asked if he’d ever heard of “Baby Gronk” Adam Shaheen: “(long pause)… Sometimes.”

Blackhawks and Blue Jackets both going through own challenges of Artemi Panarin and Brandon Saad trade

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks and Blue Jackets both going through own challenges of Artemi Panarin and Brandon Saad trade

The Blackhawks and Blue Jackets blockbuster trade from the 2017 offseason is always a hot topic in Chicago when things aren't going great. It especially is when the two teams square off against each other, like Saturday at Nationwide Arena for the first time this season.

If it wasn't already apparent in Chicago, Artemi Panarin has emerged as a real NHL superstar and is set for a giant payday when he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2019. He set a Blue Jackets record with 82 points in a single season and has nine points (three goals, six assists) through six games this season.

Brandon Saad, on the other hand, had a challenging first year back with the Blackhawks in 2017-18 after netting only 35 points in 82 games and is off to a slow start this year as well with zero goals and two assists through six games. After a demotion to the fourth line, he was close to being a healthy scratch on Thursday, which only magnifies where things are at as the two get ready to clash.

But Saad was never going to be able to replace Panarin's offensive production. Everybody knows that. Yet, the offensive comparisons will always be there as a barometer and that's something Saad doesn't think about, no matter how much fans talk about it.

"I don't think I do it," he said. "We're different players. He's a great player. Fans are going to do whatever comparisons they want, but at the end of the day you've got to be true to yourself and do what you bring to the table. He's a great player around the league. You can see his highlights and his goals, he's definitely a special player. But at the end of the day I've got confidence in my abilities too. We both bring different attributes, but they're going to make comparisons regardless."

A big reason why the Blackhawks reacquired Saad, other than his ability to play a 200-foot game, is because he carries a $6 million cap hit through 2020-21, which is two years more than Panarin at the same cap hit. (It's also important to note that the Blackhawks hoped they were getting a reliable, young backup goaltender in Anton Forsberg, but the injury to Corey Crawford thrust him into a role he wasn't exactly prepared for.)

It's not all rainbows for Columbus right now regarding where things stand with Panarin, who has made it clear he's not ready to sign a long-term extension. All signs point to the 26-year-old winger hitting the market, putting the Blue Jackets in a tricky situation ahead of the trade deadline. The Blackhawks very well could have found themselves in this position, too, had a deal not been made.

Both sides are dealing with their own challenges of the trade. Saad is still a key piece to the Blackhawks' puzzle and they're hoping to get more out of him, for no other reason than the team's overall success.

"You want to have success regardless of who you're playing for, who you're traded for, things like that," Saad said. "Naturally, just as competitors, you want to bring that excitement and you want to have success with the team and personally."