Gary Hall Jr.

From Openwaterpedia
Gary Hall Jr., 10-time Olympic medalist
Gary at the EQCA Open Water Swim in Malibu

Gary Hall, Jr. (born 26 September 1974 in Cincinnati, Ohio) is Type I diabetic and a world-class competitive swimmer who competed in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, 2000 Sydney Olympics, and 2004 Athens Olympics, winning a total of 10 Olympic medals (5 gold, 3 silver, 2 bronze). He admittedly trained in the open water 60-65% of the time between the 2000 and 2004 Olympics. He believes this open water swimming training helped his career.

Hall is well known for his on-deck preparations before a competition; occasionally strutting onto the pool deck in boxing shorts and robe, shadow boxing and flexing for the audience. He has served as the Director of Business Development for b2d Marketing, and currently works in Solvang, California.

He was also awarded the 2007 Adolf Keifer Safety Commendation Award by USA Swimming for his heroism during a shark encounter in the Atlantic Ocean (read here) and was inducted in the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2013 as an Honor Swimmer.

His Legacy


Fast swimming is obviously in his DNA. His father Gary Hall Sr. also competed in three Olympics as a swimmer (1968, 1972 and 1976). His maternal uncle Charles Keating III swam in the 1976 Olympics, and his maternal grandfather Charles Keating Jr. was a national swimming champion in the 1940s.


1996 Atlanta Games

In his first Olympics at the age of 21 in Atlanta, Hall had only 6 years of swimming experience. Yet he already had a well-known rivalry with Russia's Alexander Popov. Hall and his teammates dominated the relay events, but Popov continued to beat Hall in the individual events. The rivalry grew more bitter than ever. Hall won two individual silvers and two team relay golds at the games including helping set the world record in both the 400 m freestyle and medley relays.


In 1999, he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, commonly referred to as childhood or juvenile diabetes. Upon his diagnosis, Hall struggled with the possibilities and the effects he knew the medical condition would have on his life. Hall took a short hiatus from swimming, but returned in time to compete in the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials. There he won the 50 m freestyle and placed second in the 100 m freestyle. His 50 m time, at 21.76 seconds set a new American record, beating the ten-year old record set by Tom Jager.

2000 Sydney Games

Hall's success continued in the 2000 Olympics. He won the gold medal in the individual 50 m freestyle, tying with his fellow American Anthony Ervin, and won the gold and silver in the team relays. He also won the bronze in the individual 100 meter freestyle race.

Prior to the 4x100 m freestyle relay, Hall posted on his blog: "My biased opinion says that we will play them like guitars. Historically the U.S. has always risen to the occasion. But the logic in that remote area of my brain says it won't be so easy for the United States to dominate the waters this time". Hall swam last in the team against Australian Ian Thorpe. Thorpe had a better start and came up a body length in front of Hall. Hall managed a lead but Thorpe fought back, inflicting America's first ever Olympic defeat in the event. The Australian team famously responded to Hall's remarks after the race by playing air guitar on the pool deck. Hall recalled the race saying “I don’t even know how to play the guitar...I consider it the best relay race I’ve ever been part of. I doff my cap to the great Ian Thorpe. He swum better than I did.”

2004 Athens Games

At the 2004 Olympics Hall again won the gold medal in 50 m freestyle. At 29, Hall became the oldest American male Olympic swimmer since 1924 when Duke Kahanamoku competed. Despite having swum the fastest 50 in the year leading up to the 2004 Olympics, he was regarded as a long shot to medal in the 50 m freestyle. He also won a bronze medal for competing in the preliminary heat of the 4×100 meter freestyle relay.

2008 Olympic Trials

Hall failed to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Team after finishing 4th in the 50 m finals at the US Olympic Swimming Trials on July 5, 2008.

The Race Club

The Race Club is a swimming club founded by Hall and his father, Gary Hall, Sr. The club is designed to serve as a training group for some of the world's elite swimmers and also focuses on open water swimming. To be able to train with the Race Club, one must either have been ranked in the top 20 in the world the past 3 calendar years or top 3 in their nation in the past year. The Race Club includes such well known swimmers as Roland Mark Schoeman, Mark Foster, Ryk Neethling, Ricky Busquet and Therese Alshammar. They are coached by Mike Bottom, who was the coach of Hall and Anthony Ervin before the 2000 Sydney games.

The Race Club also offers various swimming camps and clinics year round for young swimmers at their Islamorada, Florida based training center.

Shark Encounter

In the summer of 2006, Hall's sister, Bebe Hall, were encountered by a blacktip reef shark near Islamorada while she and Gary were spearfishing, an attack for which his sister needed 19 stitches. Hall repeatedly punched the shark and his sister shot a spear into it, after which the shark swam off.


Hall has long been one of competitive swimming's most colorful personalities. He often shadow-boxes before a race and is known for wearing a boxing robe in lieu of the usual warm-ups. His eccentricity has won him a great deal of fans, but what some perceive to be "showboating" has drawn substantial criticism. He is also an outspoken critic of performance enhancing drug use in swimming, and is one of the few prominent swimmers willing to publicly question the legitimacy of suspected individual accomplishments. In 2008, he compared International Swimming Hall of Fame inductee Amy Van Dyken to disgraced track & field athlete Marion Jones, noting they were both involved with the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) steroid scandal.

Additional honors

  • Former American record holder in the 50 meter freestyle.
  • Humanitarian Award winner at 2004 Golden Goggle Awards.

External links