2023 Indiana Sports Corp State of Sports Presented by OneAmerica

Indiana Sports Corp is set to host its State of Sports presented by OneAmerica on October 17 at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown. During the program, the organization will honor Michael Phelps and Nic Askew with the distinguished Pathfinder Award while Rowdy Gaines will be recognized as the Inspiring Sports Storyteller Award recipient. These individuals will be recognized during a cocktail reception from 3:00 to 5:30 PM. State of Sports is an annual fundraising program for Indiana Sports Corp and highlights its mission of impacting the community through sports.

Pathfinder Award 

The Pathfinder Award, presented annually since 1988 by Indiana Sports Corp, aims to recognize individuals who, through sport, have made a commitment and impact to improving the lives of others and inspiring change and action in their communities. Over the years, the Pathfinder Award has honored a tremendous list of recipients including Dr. Condoleezza Rice, Jeff and Karen Saturday, John Wooden, Jeff Gordon, Larry Bird, Governor Mitch Daniels, Tony Dungy, Peyton Manning, Jack and Barbara Nicklaus, Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson, Mel Simon, Jim Nantz, the Jim Irsay Family, and Dick Vitale, among others.

Past Pathfinder Award Recipients

Pathfinder - Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps is widely regarded as one of the greatest athletes of all time. He captured 28 Olympic medals, including a record-setting 23 gold medals, and set 39 world records over the course of his distinguished career. Phelps utilized his performance bonus for winning eight gold medals in 2008 to establish the Michael Phelps Foundation, which promotes water safety, healthy physical and mental living, and the pursuit of dreams. The Foundation’s signature program - IM – is implemented through strategic partnerships with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Special Olympics International. Phelps courageously opened up about his own mental health challenges, becoming one of the first and most prominent athlete voices who has helped catapult the important conversation across sports and pop culture.

His advocacy for water safety and mental health has earned the recognition of the American Image Awards, BBC Sports, Child Mind Institute, The Kennedy Forum, Laureus World Sports Awards, PR Week, The Ruderman Family Foundation, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, among others. In addition, Phelps served as an Executive Producer, Narrator, and featured talent in the HBO documentary The Weight of Gold, which explores the mental health challenges Olympic athletes often face. He also appeared in the IndieFlix documentary Angst, which explores anxiety among middle school students and their families.

Pathfinder - Nicholas Askew

Hailing from Kinston, North Carolina, Nic Askew's remarkable journey from a small town to global recognition embodies the true spirit of perseverance and excellence. As a distinguished Howard University alumnus, accomplished athlete, and visionary coach, Nic Askew's achievements have left an indelible mark on the world of sports, diversity advocacy, and education. During his time at Howard, he achieved the extraordinary feat of being named a four-time Howard University MVP, with three of those honors coming in swimming and one in tennis.

Nic’s impact on the world of sports and advocacy is nothing short of extraordinary. A Drake HERO award winner, Nic has been recognized for his dedication to positive change and empowerment, setting an example for future generations. His presence on Sports Illustrated Daily Cover and features in Swimming World, Swim Swam and USA Swimming’s Splash magazines have showcased his remarkable achievements and influence in the swimming world. Nic is a highly sought-after panelist, subject matter expert, and public speaker and has become a thought leader in creating diversity in swimming and tennis. He has shattered barriers and fostered inclusion within these sports. Nic is a tireless water safety advocate, testifying before state legislators to promote life-saving water safety initiatives. 

Currently serving as the Director of Swimming and Diving and Tennis, Howard University has broken nearly 200 school records, earned CSCAA Scholar All-America recognition and Mens Swimming and Diving became the 2023 NEC Champions, making a historic achievement after 30 years. Nic has been recognized as the 2020 Coastal Collegiate Sports Association Conference Men’s Coach of the Year, 2022 National Collegiate and Scholastic Trophy recipient. He is a three-time conference Coach of the Year and an inductee to the Howard University Athletic Hall of Fame. Nic has earned international acclaim for being the visionary of the historic, and record-breaking “Battle at the Burr Swim Meet” versus Georgetown University. 

Beyond his coaching prowess, Nic has been featured on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, CNN, ESPN, ABC World News Tonight and NPR. His story of resilience and dedication serves as an inspiration to athletes, coaches, and advocates worldwide.

Inspiring Sports Storyteller Award

New in 2019, the Inspiring Sports Storyteller Award seeks to recognize those who share stories that showcase how the power of sports can inspire people to take action and invest in their community. The Award honors a sports journalist whose contributions positively impact the narrative of sports as a force for change. Previous recipients include Gregg Doyel, Sage Steele, and Malcolm Moran.

Inspiring Sports Storyteller - Rowdy Gaines

Rowdy Gaines was the “fastest swimmer on the planet” throughout the 1980s, breaking several world records and winning multiple Olympic gold medals. The Olympic Boycott of 1980 came during the peak of his career, when he set world records in the 100M and 200M freestyles, and Swimming World Magazine voted him World Swimmer of the Year. Gaines was predicted to win five Olympic gold medals in the 1980 Olympic Games held in Moscow, but he was not able to realize that goal. After a brief retirement, the allure of competing proved too strong, and Gaines returned to the pool. At the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, no swimmer won more races than Gaines, with his three gold medals in the 100M freestyle, the 4x100M freestyle, and medley relays. In 1991, the swimming world was shocked to hear that Rowdy had contracted Guillan-Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune virus that attacks the nervous system. Completely paralyzed for over two weeks, Gaines fought back, overcame the disease, and one year later went to the World Masters Championships and won the glamorous 50M and 100M freestyle events. Over the course of his career, Gaines broke a total of 14 World Records.

Since his retirement from competition, Gaines has been inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame and International Swimming Hall of Fame. Gaines works with many charitable organizations, including the USA Swimming Foundation and Swim Across America, benefitting research for cancer and the Special Olympics. He is the Vice President of Partnerships and Development for the Pool and Hot Tub Association and its Step Into Swim philanthropic mission to help children learn to swim.

Today, Gaines is known as the voice of American swimming, as he has worked with CBS, TNT, and ESPN as a regular announcer for swimming and other events. Rowdy has called the Olympic telecast on NBC for over two decades and will call the upcoming 2024 Olympic Team Trials, and the Paris 2024 and LA 2028 Olympic Games.


For sponsorship information, please contact Mike Karnuta at mkarnuta@indianasportscorp.org or (317) 237-5004.

This event is an important fundraiser in support of Indiana Sports Corp’s community-building mission and efforts to create positive impact by hosting world-class sporting events. Thank you for your support!