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Rouse gives Virginia Hall of Fame Olympic prestige
STEVE DeSHAZO: Rouse joins state hall of fame

 Jeff Rouse won three Olympic gold medals.
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Date published: 4/30/2011

By Steve DeShazo

BELLA AND LINNEA Rouse have no clue about their father's athletic career. But you can't blame them; they're 5 and 4 years old, respectively.

"All they know is that their dad was a pretty good swimmer," Jeff Rouse said this week. "This will be their immersion into the fact that he was a little better than a good swimmer."

In fact, a whole new audience may learn about Jeff Rouse tonight, when he's inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame at a ceremony at the Renaissance Hotel in Portsmouth.

The Stafford County resident is part of a seven-man class that also includes former world boxing champion Pernell "Sweetpea" Whitaker; ex-University of Richmond basketball star Johnny Newman; former University of Virginia football standout Tiki Barber; high school basketball coaching legend Bill Littlepage; ex-Old Dominion University athletic director Jim Jarrett; and veteran sportswriter Eugene "Pappy" Thompson.

Rouse, a three-time Olympic gold medalist, is already a member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame and Stanford University's hall. Those are relatively specific venues, though.

Tonight, Rouse will be celebrated by a state that usually cares much more about football and NASCAR than Olympic champions. Rouse becomes just the fourth swimmer in the state hall and the third Fredericksburg-area honoree, joining baseball stars Al Bumbry (King George) and Eppa Rixey (Culpeper).

"There's definitely a different level of satisfaction," Rouse said. "I'm really appreciative for the recognition and to be included with such a diverse group of people."

Tonight's attendees may be surprised to learn that Rouse held the world record in the 100-meter backstroke for nearly a decade and won the gold medal in the event in Atlanta in 1996. He also was the silver medalist in Barcelona in 1992, and won relay gold in both games.

Now, though, he's focused on his job as a senior business development officer for REDCO, a state small-business development company, and on raising his two young daughters with his wife, Charlotte.

"I live in the present," he said. "Right now, what's important is the people around me and my family. But I treasure the good friends I made and the people I met during my swimming career."

Several of those friends and family members will be in Portsmouth tonight for Rouse's induction.

"Even now," he said, "I'm floored that I did what I did. I was very fortunate in many ways.

"I had physical talent that I was able to take advantage of, but a lot of people have talent. I just got out there and did it. Clearly, there's no magic recipe for success. I can't point to a single thing that allowed me to do what I did."

Whatever he did, it worked.

Steve DeShazo: 540/374-5443
Email: sdeshazo@freelancestar.com