Riley Gaines and Rowdy Gaines are both American swimmers who have made headlines for different reasons. Riley Gaines is a former college swimmer who has campaigned against the inclusion of trans women in women’s sports, while Rowdy Gaines is a three-time Olympic gold medalist and a swimming analyst for NBC. But are they related?
Riley Gaines: A swimmer turned activist
Riley Gaines, also known as Riley Gaines Barker, is a 23-year-old former competitive swimmer from Gallatin, Tennessee, who competed for the University of Kentucky NCAA swim team. She was the 2022 Southeastern Conference Women’s Swimming and Diving Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Gaines rose to prominence as an activist in 2022 after tying for fifth place with trans swimmer Lia Thomas in the 200-yard NCAA freestyle championship. Thomas became the first openly trans woman champion in the NCAA women’s division after winning the 500-yard freestyle.
Gaines has since gone on a public crusade against Thomas and other trans women athletes, claiming that they have an unfair advantage over biological women and that they threaten the integrity of women’s sports. She has lobbied for legislation that would ban trans women from competing in women’s sports, appeared in campaign ads for Republican politicians, and spoken at various events and rallies.
Gaines has also faced backlash and harassment from some people who support trans rights. In April 2023, she was assaulted by a protester at San Francisco State University, where she was invited to speak by a conservative student group. She posted a video of the incident on Twitter, where she said she was hit twice and ambushed by a mob of protesters.
Rowdy Gaines: A swimming legend and commentator
Rowdy Gaines, whose full name is Ambrose Gaines IV, is a 64-year-old former competitive swimmer who won three gold medals at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. He also set 10 world records in his career and was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame and the International Swimming Hall of Fame. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest freestyle swimmers of all time.
Gaines missed the chance to compete at the 1980 Moscow Olympics due to the U.S. boycott, which he said came at a time when he was at his peak and could have won four gold medals. He also suffered from mental health issues after his retirement from swimming and contracted Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that paralyzed him for two months. He recovered from the illness and returned to swimming as a masters athlete, breaking several national records in his age group.
Gaines is also a swimming analyst for television network NBC, covering swimming at the Olympic Games since 1992 in Barcelona. He is known for his enthusiastic and passionate commentary style, as well as his insights and expertise on the sport. He has also worked for ESPN and other networks as a swimming commentator.
Gaines is married to Judy Zachea since 1989 and has four children: Emily, Isabelle, Maddison, and Savanna. He lives in Lake Mary, Florida, where he works as an executive director for a swimming organization called Rowdy’s Kidz. He also supports various charitable causes related to swimming and health.
The verdict: No relation
Despite sharing the same surname and sport, Riley Gaines and Rowdy Gaines are not related to each other. They have different backgrounds, families, and views on swimming and society. They have never met or interacted with each other publicly.
Riley Gaines is not related to Rowdy Gaines by blood or marriage. She is married to Louis Barker since 2022, while Rowdy Gaines is married to Judy Zachea since 1989. Neither of them have any known relatives with the surname Gaines among their parents or siblings.
Riley Gaines’ parents are Brad Gaines and Telisha Gaines, who were both active in sports as well. Her father played football at Vanderbilt University and her mother played softball at Donelson Christian Academy and Austin Peay. She attended Station Camp High School in Gallatin, Tennessee, before joining the University of Kentucky’s swim team.
Rowdy Gaines’ parents are Jettie Ann and Ambrose “Buddy” Gaines, who met as water skiers at Cypress Gardens in Florida in the 1950s. He attended Winter Haven High School in Winter Haven, Florida, before joining Auburn University’s swim team.
Riley Gaines and Rowdy Gaines have different opinions on the issue of trans women in women’s sports. Riley Gaines is a vocal opponent of trans women’s participation, while Rowdy Gaines has expressed support for trans women’s rights and inclusion. In a 2021 interview, Rowdy Gaines said he was proud of Lia Thomas for breaking barriers and that he believed in the NCAA’s policy of allowing trans women to compete after a year of hormone therapy. He also said he respected Riley Gaines’ views but disagreed with them.
Riley Gaines and Rowdy Gaines have different roles and achievements in swimming. Riley Gaines is a former college swimmer who never made it to the Olympics or won any major international medals. She is now an activist and a speaker who campaigns against trans women in women’s sports. Rowdy Gaines is a former Olympic champion and world record holder who is now a respected and popular swimming commentator and a mentor for young swimmers.