Swain competed in major international tournaments including four Olympics and five World Championships. He is most known for his historic win in 1987, becoming the first male judoka from the United States to win a World Championship since its inception in 1956. He also won silver at both the 1985 and 1989 World Championships, as well as a gold at the 1987 Pan American Games. He is a four time Olympian, a five time World team member and was the 1996 US Olympic Judo coach for the Atlanta Games.
Throughout his professional judo career, he spent much of his time training in Japan at Nihon University and the Tokyo Police Academy. He also trained internationally in Wimbledon, UK at the Crystal Palace Training Center with Neil Adams, in Kendal, England at the National Judo Training Center, in Seoul, Korea at Yongin University, in Paris, France at INSEP and, and in Koln, Germany at the Koln National Judo Training Center. Despite all his travels, Swain continually returned San Jose where he trained under Yoshihiro Uchida, a pioneer for American judo. Swain graduated from San Jose State University in 1985 with a degree in business marketing and continues to this day to coach and bring more students to the program with the Swain Scholarship.
Swain has been honored for many of his accomplishments as an American judoka. He was named Black Belt Magazine’s “competitor of the year” in 1985, as well as Instructor of the year in 1994. In 2003 the USOC honored several athletes who were pioneers in their sports. Swain was honored as a pioneer for USA Judo alongside other athletes such as Evander Holyfield for boxing and Dan Gable for wrestling.