By Phillip Whitten
MIAMI, Florida, September 29. WHOEVER said that quadruple Olympic gold medalist Gary Hall, Jr. lacks ambition apparently has never talked with the sprinting great.
In the last several weeks, Hall, 29, has revealed plans to do nothing less than transform the sport of swimming.
Hall's announcement that he has started a new, athlete-run sprint team called The Race Club — the first such team ever assembled at an elite level — was made two weeks ago on his web site, www.garyhalljr.com, in his newsletter, "Damn the Torpedoes," and first among the world's media on SwimInfo.com.
Since then the story was picked up by news media in the USA, Brazil, Germany, Japan and Canada.
Hall also announced that the team, based in the Florida Keys and coached by four-time Olympic gold medalist Jon Olsen, would offer free training (including housing) for six world-class sprinters, regardless of nationality, and he began taking applications for the coveted spots.
Though Hall has not yet released the names of any of the swimmers he has accepted onto The Race Club, SwimInfo has learned that three of the six spots have been filled, with the remaining three spots still "wide open."
Said Hall: "Thus far, I have gotten an overwhelming response and have been taking the time to review each and every application sent. We have already made some selections, but are keeping a few spots open for the procrastinators, so keep sending them in. It's going to be incredible!"
If that weren't enough, Hall is now hinting at starting a professional swimming league, an idea he has been mulling over since 1997 in an interview with Swimming World.
"The Race Club is not about me," Hall said. "I am simply an investor and a promoter for the organization.
"The primary objective is to create an atmosphere where swimmers can come and train and hopefully fulfill their Olympic dream.
"Swiminfo does an excellent job of covering the terrible trend of college programs being cut and other obstacles that the sport faces. We all know that this results in less opportunity for swimmers. Additionally, there are few options for a swimmer who is out of college. College teams have little if any space available for even Olympic medalists to come and train."
Instead of just complaining, the Race Club is doing something about the problem," Hall said.
While Hall invited contributions, he noted that the team is developing sponsorships and revenue streams so it can be run as a for-profit enterprise and can grow. "This is how a professional circuit is developed – not by perpetually relying on the deep pockets of philanthropic individuals or national governing bodies," he said.