Work in Sports
Gary Hall Jr. won two gold medals, one silver and one bronze at the Sydney Olympics. The 26-year-old American summarizes his Olympic experience for CNNSI.com.
October 22, 2000
I don't know what the date is. The Olympics are over, that much I can be certain of. Not much else, except that I have four medals. They lie or lay (I don't know which) hidden somewhere within the laundry monstrosity that occupies my living room. That's one shared experience of all athletes that competed in the 2000 Olympic Games. No matter what sport or country, all who participated can now unpack the spoils of Olympic uniforming.
Two golds, one silver and one bronze. Not a bad outing. It gives me eight total, between the 1996 and 2000 games. Four gold, three silver, and one bronze to round out the medal spectrum. Medals are a funny thing. Over-glorified souverniers, in my opinion. I meet people who are suprised at me not wearing them. Are they kidding? They are so gaudy. It doesn't make me any less proud of my accomplishments, the events that they symbolize, but it is the experience that I hold sacred. Not the hardware. I feel uncomfortable wearing them.
It was a good meet. Good enough to be referred to as the greatest swim meet ever. I would argue that with anyone. To be part of it was a thrill. It was great that it was held in a country where swimming is recognized. It's nice to know that at least somewhere in the world you and what you have dedicated your entire life to is appreciated. Swimming is a major sport in Australia. One can get into a taxi and the driver can tell you who swam that day and what the results were. The swimming was the best sport of the Olympics.
It was a great Olympics that television tried its best to capture -- and failed. But it's impossible to capture with a camera the feeling that jitters the air you breathe. I guess you just had to be there to experience the feeling. What could be recorded was the worlds greatest sporting event. The athletes that competed in these games provided the 3.7 billion people who watched a demonstration in athletic excellence, rivaled by no other. Every other event pales in comparison to the Olympic Games.
I know that there were a lot of problems with the tape delay. It was a lose-lose situation for NBC. If they had aired the events live they would be on at a time that only speed freaks and insomniacs would view. Not exactly the target audience. With the delay you knew the results. It takes the excitement out of it, I know.
What now for an Olympic athlete? Most will resume a normal life, not all. I just got back from Los Angeles for VH1's show The List, New York for Who Wants to be a Millionaire, and Chicago for ESPN's Arete awards. The number of interviews and appearances that I've done are only out-numbered by the requests. It has been hectic. I know as well as anyone that this fame is fleeting. We have a narrow window of opportunity to capitalize. What now? You milk it for all it's worth. Which in reality isn't much. Not if you take into account the lifetime it took to get to this point. If this sport were a company, I would have a pension plan.
If you're reading this and have a business that is enjoying the current status of our economy, consider this -- sponsor an athlete. These athletes exemplify courage, strength, and grace under the most extreme conditions. They do it for all the right reasons. Do you really think that Rulon Gardner got into wrestling for the money? Or for the fame? Yet what he did makes John Elway look like the state pee-wee league MVP. Supporting our Olympic athletes speaks volumes of a company and the ideals that it strives for.
Personally, I'm considering broadcasting. I want to produce swimming events. I want to promote the sport. I want to take the momentum that comes with the Olympics and use it to create better opportunities for the next generation of swimmers. I want to continue to design swimwear then branch out into a leisure-wear line. I want to write more articles. I want to paint a masterpiece. I want to do public speaking. I want to be a spokesperson for people with diabetes. I want an active role in creating awareness about the disease and raising money for research. I want to help in finding a cure for diabetes. Last and not in any way least, I want a vacation.
It looks like I've got a book deal. Probably because of this athlete diary thing. The last entry that I submitted caught international attention. It made headlines. It was on the radio. It was on television. It made quote of the week in People magazine. It got people talking. It got people mad. It made people laugh. Oh boy. It got me in trouble.
I got off the plane in Australia. I went to the pool and that's where I saw it for the first time, in letters that took up half of the front page, (my picture taking up the other half), "We're going to smash them like guitars." Good God. I thought I was going to be killed. Old women would scowl and say "smash us like guitars, eh?" and then add words that can't be typed here. The quote had spurred the Australians on, it spurred us on as well. It generated a lot of excitement for swimming and the Olympics. It got people's attention.
It all worked out though. The entire article was eventually brought to light and the quote was put back into the original text from which it came. People then found humor in it. By the end of the Olympics I would walk down the streets of Sydney with hundreds of people playing air guitar in unison. Not one negative comment was made. I had so many drinks offered to me I felt like the only woman at some ladies night extravaganza.
There was a song that people kept chanting that I eventually found out was about me. They would all laugh and clap me on the back. In the end, we both shook hands and said things like "Job well done" or "Good on ya."
I'll say it again. "Australia, job well done. Thanks from the Yanks."
Thank you to CNN/SI for allowing me to write for them. Thanks to any and all who read the entries.