32 years ago at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, Bruce Hayes, Edelman’s Managing Director of Healthcare in New York, and his teammates won Gold in the 4×200 meter freestyle relay – just as the U.S. Men’s team did last night in Rio.
We caught up with Bruce after last night’s Gold Medal performance to get his thoughts on the race, the differences and similarities between 1984 and 2016 and just where exactly he keeps his hardware.
What’s your most vivid memory of your gold medal race? The thing I remember most about my race in LA was the last 25 meters of my swim, when I could hear the crowd yelling and screaming for me. I had never experienced that before. Most swim meets are sparsely attended and you can’t hear anything while you’re swimming, but in LA, there were 18,000 spectators and I could definitely hear them roar! And, of course, I remember the moment I touched the wall and turned around to look at the scoreboard and saw the “1” next to our lane – meaning we had won the race. I didn’t even notice the time – or how close it was (we finished .04 seconds ahead of West Germany) until later.
How does a gold medal winner find his way to Edelman? People ask me that all the time. I had always wanted to be a journalist and, after I retired from swimming in 1985, I went to Northwestern University to get my Master’s in Journalism. While I was doing that, I realized I liked writing and working with the media but I hated reporting and I didn’t want to start my career in a really small town. So I thought about what I could do that would involve writing and media, and allow me to come to New York, and I landed on PR. I decided to give it a try and have been doing it ever since. I came to Edelman in 2000, so I’ve been here 16 years now. Hard to believe!
Are there aspects from your swimming career and all the training you did that are applicable to what you do today in terms of putting together the right team for specific projects? Absolutely. The importance of preparation, teamwork and keeping your cool under pressure are things I learned in swimming that are very applicable to what we do in this business.
Where is your medal now? I’m embarrassed to say it, but it’s in a sock drawer in my apartment.
After watching the U.S. men win last night, what’s the most striking difference and similarities between your race and theirs? This year’s 4×200 freestyle relay wasn’t as much of a nail-biter as ours, mainly because the U.S. is more dominant this year than we were in 1984. They won by 2.5 seconds while we won by a fingernail! We weren’t considered the favorites in ’84 because the West Germans had the world record holder, Michael Gross, anchoring their relay and most people expected them to win. So our win was a major upset. But both our team and this year’s team brought home the gold, which is really the only thing that matters.