Spring 1976 found Gary Hall so bogged down in studies at the University of Cincinnati Medical School he barely had enough time to spend with his wife Mary and their infant son, much less attend regular workouts with the Cincinnati Pepsi Marlins Swim Club. After two trips to the Olympics and seven NCAA titles, the individual medley specialist had enough memories to last ten swimmers a lifetime. He was ready to retire.
The former Indiana University superswimmer did not quit; he kept swimming and that summer joined the great Duke Kahanamoko, as the only American swimmers to go to three Olympics.
For Hall, the most significant honor he received in 1976 was not the bronze medal earned in competition, but rather the respect shown by fellow Olympians when they selected him to carry the American flag in the opening and closing cermemonies.
"My fellow co-captain Steve Furniss nominated me to carry the flag and I was there in the room when he stood up to give my qualifications," Hall said recently from his home in Indiana, "I was very embarrassed, but very proud when I realized how much my teamates though of me."
Always a team man, Hall cites a relay win in his final NCAA Championship meet as the pinnacle of a much-heralded college swim career.
In his first three years as a Hoosier, the squad won the NCAAs, but never posted a relay victory. The most gratifying moment of his years of swimming for Doc Counsilman came when Hall anchored the Indiana 800-yd. free relay team which also included Gary Connolly, John Kinsella, and Freddie Tyler to a first place finish at the 1973 meet.
"In swimming the real test of team work comes in the relays and our inability to win an NCAA title in one had begun to eat at me," Hall recalls, "Ending on that note, with a win I wanted made my experince at Indiana all the more positive."
After giving up competition following the 1976 Olympics, Hall joined a squad of former swimmers representing Arena Swim Wear, a subsidiary of Adidas.
Team Arena, which includes Hoosier and Olympic teammate Mark and Olympic teammate Mark Spitz, as well as Don Schollander, Shirley Babashoff, and diver Micki King among others does public relations work for competitive swimming.
Time spent in the water is now a is essential with politics which is luxury for the young doctor, a surgical resident in his first year of the Indiana University Medical Center's Opthamology program. He remains one of the sports biggest advocates and is not afraid to step out on a limb in support of swimming or amateur athletics in general.
"No matter how corny it sounds, swimming is a terrific sport which creates good clean heroes for a world that needs them," Hall says, "The Olympics and the sporting events contested there every four years showcase some of the finest people I've met. We need the Mike Burtons and the Eric Heidens."
After oberving the games at Mexico City, followed by the tragedy-marred Munich contests, and then arriving at Montreal eight years later to find guards with machine guns posted at all major entrances to the compound, the former silver and bronze medal winner is sensitive to the changing times and the politicization of the games.
Hall said, "I think it's terribly unfair to leave the athletes' futures hanging because of a boycott which will accomplish nothing and possibly destroy the potential for future Olympics."
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