Greatest group of speedsters out there
Gary Hall Jr. won two gold medals and two silver medals at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. The 26-year-old American was part of the 400-meter medley relay team that set a world record. And his split in the 400-meter freestyle relay was the then fastest relay split in history. The 6-foot-6 Hall is now training for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. Check out Hall's diary every other week on CNNSI.com.
An attempt will be made to convey the events that are taking, will take and have taken place. First, allow me to introduce myself as Gary (I hate being called Gary Hall Junior). Just Gary, that's fine. I've been asked to submit an entry, a scribble about what goes on in the life of an Olympic swimmer. And having swum in the 1996 Olympics, I guess I'm qualified. I'm now preparing for the Summer Games to be held in Australia in September. I've submerged myself in heavy training already and continue to do so in preparation for the "big swim".
As an Olympic athlete, one tends to think in quadrennials. An Olympics and a four-year waiting period followed by another Olympics. Repeat. There are other meets in between. But after having competed in the Olympics, there is only one swim meet -- and a four-year waiting period that follows. It seems like such a long time, and I'm anxious to near the event.
The mentor that I've aligned myself with is the Cal-Berkeley swim coach, Mike Bottom. Under his tutelage I've been living and training in the East Bay. A lot of progress has been made. Now that school is out, he, myself and a group of the world's fastest swimmers have assembled in Phoenix, valley of the heatstroke. The intention is to train together, pooling our experience.
Included in the group is Jon Olsen, a two-time Olympian (1992 and '96). He's got six Olympic medals, four of them gold. Jon and I have been competing against each other for years. Oddly enough, he's one of my best friends in the sport. We swam together on the Olympic record-setting relay in Atlanta, and had broken the world record the year before, which still stands. He was the team captain of the '96 team.
Also in the group is Bart Kizierowski, an Olympian from Poland. I swam against him in Atlanta in the 100-meter free. He's one of the hardest workers I've ever come across, and tough to beat.
Scott Greenwood is from Los Angeles, an accomplished NCAA swimmer and a Lakers fan, I might add. He's got one of the fastest starts in the group. The start for the 50-meter free is crucial.
Anthony Ervin is new. As a freshman at Cal, he set a world record and won NCAAs. Expect good things.
Matt Macedo, also from Cal, has as good a shot as anyone I know to make the Olympic team. He's cleaned up on the college circuit and is ready to step up to the next level. We've had some show downs at the national championships.
Francisco Sanchez swam at Arizona State. He's an Olympian from Venezuela. We swam against each other in '96 -- and I barely touched him out in the 50-meter free.
Felipe Delgado is an Olympian from Ecuador. He swims the 50 free. There's nobody that talks more trash than he. Refers to himself as the "Ecuadorian Nightmare".
Julio Santos is also an Olympian from Ecuador; he's been putting in fast times for the 50 free. He's a good guy. It's hard to believe that he's from the same country as that nightmare guy.
Gordon Kozulj is from Croatia. He's the only one who doesn't swim the 50 or 100 freestyle. He doesn't even swim freestyle. He swims the 200 backstroke. He swam in the '96 Olympics. I'm wondering how he got mixed up with a bunch of sprinters?
Last and least, you know the meekest man in the world, is me, Gary. I'll be submitting these web entries for the next few months, charting our progress through the 2000 Olympic Games. I was tempted to list all of the accomplishments of this group, such as world championships, European championships, Pan American Games, Pan Pacific Games, World Cup, Nationals, and all the NCAA titles and records. It would have been too much to list. The Mike Bottom line is that this is the greatest group of speedsters out there. I'm honored to be a part of this group. Check in again, and see what progress has been made. Don't hesitate to submit any questions; I'll try my best to answer all. Full steam ahead, and damn the torpedoes.
Cool in the pool.
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