Gary Hall Jr. On Rivalry With Alex Popov: ‘There Was No Love Lost’

Gary Hall Jr - Olympic 2000 Trials
Gary Hall Jr at 2000 Olympic trials - Photo Courtesy: Peter Bick

Olympic gold medalist Gary Hall Jr. appeared on the Inside with Brett Hawke podcast to talk about his career where he won back to back Olympic gold medals in the 50 freestyle in 2000 and 2004, and also won individual medals in the 100 freestyle in 1996 and 2000. Hawke started the interview by asking about his father, Gary Hall, Sr. who swam in three Olympic Games in 1968, 1972 and 1976, winning Olympic silver medal in the 400 IM in 1968, silver in the 200 fly in 1972, and bronze in the 100 fly in 1976.

He talked about how his parents influenced his swimming career (9:00) growing up, and reflected on when he realized he started to get good at swimming (12:00), and gave a shocking revelation at what he was like at age 14 (13:30).

Hall talked about taking down his idol Tom Jager (16:45) at the 1996 Olympic Trials, where Hall won the 50 and was second in the 100 freestyle. After those Olympic Trials, he went on to race Alexander Popov as those two developed a rivalry that is still being talked about today (19:00). He detailed their first meeting at the 1994 World Championships where Hall took the silver in both the 50 and 100 freestyle with Popov taking the gold in each race. The pair talked about Hall’s confidence he held behind the blocks in the 1996 Games (23:00) where he again took the silver in the 50 and 100 free.

Gary Hall Jr was famous for his bravado behind the blocks and explained why he had a disdain for this image that had been portrayed by NBC during the 1996 Games and how that was always his personality. He explained why he was such a bad in-season swimmer (32:30), and also explained his Type-1 Diabetes diagnosis (43:00).

Hall also trained for a long time with current Michigan head coach Mike Bottom (46:00) as the pair created The Race Club in the Florida Keys, which was a training base similar to what Energy Standard is now. Hall talked about how Bottom balanced the egos of training group and what being in that environment was like (52:00). There at the race club was where Hall met Anthony Ervin (53:30) and the two would go on to share the gold medal in the 50 freestyle at the 2000 Olympics (57:00).

Gary Hall Jr was famous for saying before the 2000 Olympics that the Americans would “smash the Aussies like guitars,” which the nation of Australia did not take lightly and he explained the intentions behind that statement (1:05:30), and why he is still haunted by the 4×100 freestyle relay defeat in 2000. Hall explained his conflict with Jason Lezak (1:12.40) during the 2000 Games and how the team may have not been united enough leading up to the relay and how it played a role in the US getting the silver in 2000.

Hall explained why his bronze in the 100 freestyle was so special to him (1:17:00) when he out-touched Michael Klim for the bronze medal. He closed out the podcast by talking about the 2004 Olympic final where he controversially wore a robe behind the blocks (1:24:00) for the 50 free final, much to the disapproval of the USA Swimming staff.

Gary Hall Jr was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2013 and won 10 Olympic medals in his career.

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