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We have our work cut out for us

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Updated: Monday December 04, 2000 1:57 PM

 

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 fastest relay split in history at that point. 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.

August 22, 2000
Phoenix, Arizona

Olympic Trials are over. There were over 1,300 competitors, but 48 selected for Sydney. I count myself among the lucky, one of 48. I will compete in the 100-meter freestyle, the 4 x 100 freestyle relay, the 50-meter freestyle, and the medley relay -- a busy schedule to be sure. I'm elated and exhausted.

The times of this meet are something that the swimming mind marvels at. The rate of progress that the sport has seen over the past four years is nothing short of tremendous. It's something to be proud of, but it certainly doesn't make our job of qualifying for the Olympic team any easier. For instance, in the 100-meter freestyle, the 1996 winning time wouldn't have made the 2000 team even as an alternate for the relay. Unfortunately, the rest of the world has made greater strides than us. It appears, despite our strong Olympic trials showing, that we have our work cut out for us.

Anyone familiar with the sport of swimming knows that Australia is a contender. The popularity of swimming draws the country's greatest athletes. The incentives offered to a swimmer are enough to retire on. The athletes are treated as professionals, and have the respect of society and government, which subsidizes AUS$120 million (about US$80 million) a year to the swim program. The program that the country has to offer should be the example for other national governing bodies to follow. And if it's possible to wish Australia well without getting squashed in the process, I do. I hope that they do well. I feel that it may be exactly what United States swimming needs.

The United States has been the king of pool for so long that many coaches, swimmers and officials have become content in a philosophy and method that existed way, way, way back when my father swam. To say it in a kinder, gentler way, our system is grossly dated. The smug hierarchy could use a good kick in the bum. We need to step up our efforts to provide opportunity for our swimmers. Whatever the cause, Australia has produced results. Count on those results to continue.

I like Australia, in truth. I like Australians. The country is beautiful, and the people are admirable. Good humor and genuine kindness seem a predominant characteristic. My biased opinion says that we will smash 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. Whatever the results, the world will witness great swimming.

What's up with this suit? It's a question I've been asked a lot lately. The media has fallen for a gimmick, a ploy created by a marketing division that up until this incident has been pathetic -- if existent. A certain swim suit manufacturer out there has stirred things up by creating a "controversial" fabric that mimics the skin of a shark. Hogwash. What the company has done is wrong. They're taking credit for a bunch of world-record performances that (coincidentally?) happened during an Olympic year. Tradition tells us that during an Olympic year, records fall, regardless of suit technology. The manufacturer has duped the public into believing that these swimmers, who all hovered above world-record marks destined to break, were able to break these records because of some "shark" suit. While I don't mind the added interest in the sport, I do mind the fact that the interest is drawn away from the athletes that worked their fannies off to achieve those swims.

That answers some of the questions that I have received. I will put out the disclaimer for the hosting Web site, these opinions are solely my own and do not reflect the opinions of anyone else. Well, some may agree with me.

I would like to thank all of you who have sent me e-mails. It means an awful lot to me. The stories of people living with diabetes has been overwhelming in the most positive way. The wall of my room is covered with letters. Thank you all for writing. It is my hope that I've been able to show the world that a person living with diabetes today is capable of achieving anything they set out to do. It has been with your support that I have been able to do this. We are fortunate to live in a time that provides us with the technology in modern medicine to properly manage this disease. Take advantage of that opportunity. Avoid the complications that accompany this disease. Manage your challenges, don't let them manage you.

Awaiting Sydney,

-- Gary


 
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