SWIMNEWS ONLINE: August 1996 Magazine Articles

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Karin Helmstaedt

It was a long time coming for Jeff Rouse. And after being runner-up in 1992 and in 1994 at the Worlds, his emotion was proof of how badly he wanted to win.

When Rouse touched first in the 100 backstroke (54.10) to take the Olympic gold medal in Atlanta, it was the high point of his career.

"It just went by too fast," he said. "I've imagined winning for so long and have gone through every possible scenario. I really just wanted to stay in the pool for about 10 more minutes and just kind of live the moment, but unfortunately the consol heat had to swim and I got forced out."

When the race was over, 1992 gold medalist Mark Tewksbury, who had watched from the stands, ran down to congratulate his former rival. " He congratulated me and I actually thanked him for beating me in 1992 because I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him," said Rouse. "I learned a lot about myself and about life over the last four years of training and living. I learned a lot about myself in '92 after losing, so I thanked him for that and for those experiences."

The four-year wait is over for Jeff Rouse
For larger 64k photo click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa

Rouse made good use of the lead-up to the race.

"The first thing I wanted to do walking out, and I'd been thinking about this for a long time, I wanted to look up into the stands and find my family and friends who were up there. I had about 25 people up there in a little cheering section. They had a banner, and I really wanted to focus on them. I smiled on the way out 'cause I was just taking their energy and it was real comforting to know that no matter how I finished the race, they were going to support me and love me no matter what, and that takes all sorts of pressure off me."

With tears in his eyes, Rouse described his feelings on the podium.

"I was thinking about everyone that has made a difference in my life, just names and faces were flashing through my head-family, friends, my mom, my dad, my sister Renee, my grandparents. I had a grandfather pass away six years ago...probably one of the reasons I'm still tearing up is because I think about him. He was really my biggest fan while he was still living. I know he's somewhere really proud, probably bragging to all the angels, like he used to do..."

When asked about the state of U.S. swimming, Rouse smiled.

"I knew coming in here that we had a really good chance to surprise some people, especially with the hometown advantage. I think it's pretty obvious that United States swimming is not dead. We are going to and will continue to dominate the swimming world and I'm just really proud...the spirit is more than I've ever seen it."

PLACE Fredericksburg, Va
HEIGHT 6 ft. 4 in. / 193 cm
WEIGHT 190 lbs / 86 kg
HOME Palo Alto, Ca, USA
REPRESENTS Stanford Swimming
COACH Skip Kenney
96 Olympics 1st 100 back 54.10, 1st 4x100 MR
96 US Trials 2nd 100 back
95 Pan Pacs 1st 100 back 54.99, 1st 4x100 MR
95 Pan Ams 1st 100 back 54.74, 1st 4x100 MR
94 Worlds 2nd 100 back 55.51, 1st 4x100 MR
92 Olympics 2nd 100 back 54.04, 1st 4x100 MR
World record holder 100 back 53.86 from 1992
World leader in 100 back since 1989

Rouse, who has an economics degree from Stanford University, plans to move back to his native Virginia and enjoy swimming for a while, maybe attend some of the meets he has always had to miss because of his all-absorbing training schedule.

"I want to, at least next year, take advantage of this gold medal and give back to the community as much as possible," he said. "I want to get in touch with kids while they still know who I am; I think with a medal around your neck you can make a difference to someone's life."

Like it's made a difference to his.

"It's everything I imagined," he said, "and I don't think I've realized it yet. I don't think I've gone through all the emotions."

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