Host City: Los Angeles, United States
Venue(s): Olympic Swim Stadium, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California
Date Started: July 31, 1984
Date Finished: July 31, 1984
In 1980 [Rowdy Gaines] was the best sprint swimmer in the world and was expected to win four gold medals, until Jimmy Carter told him he could not compete in Moscow. He was World Swimmer of the Year in 1980, and in 1981 finally bettered the 100 freestyle world record with 49.36. By 1984 he was not the swimmer he had been in 1980 but hoped to make up for having to miss the 1980 Olympics. In the end he came through for the gold medal but not without some controversy. The runner-up was Australian [Mark Stockwell], and he was upset, thinking the start had not been fair, "I don't want to take away anything from Rowdy. I mean, he's great. He's been around for a long time and he knows what to look out for. It just wasn't a fair start." Stockwell's teammate [Peter Evans], not in this event, was furious, telling him, "You were robbed, mate."
The starter had been Panamanian Frank Silvestri who had done similar duty at the 1982 World Championships and 1983 Pan American Games, and the American coaches knew of him. They knew he was quick on the trigger for the start and had warned Gaines to be ready. Anticipating that Gaines had an early lead and hung on in the final 25 metres, telling himself, âI can't stop now, this is my last 25 ever.â In the end the Australian protest was disallowed and Gaines won the gold medal with Stockwell taking silver. Gaines' time of 49.80 broke the Olympic record set in 1976 by [Jim Montgomery], which was the first time the 50-second barrier had been broken.