Gary Hall Sr. Reflects on Rooming with Mark Spitz, Effect of Olympic Postponement

Gary Hall, Sr. no date with flag - E. Germany closing ceremony
Gary Hall Sr.; Photo Courtesy: Swimming World

Gary Hall Sr. won medals at three consecutive Olympic games, an unprecedented feat for the 1970s. But as he told Olympic.org this week, that didn’t even make him the most decorated member of his apartment. That’s what happens when you room with Mark Spitz.

Hall Sr. and Spitz both attended Indiana University, part of powerhouse teams under James “Doc” Counsilman. Both men competed at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, where Hall Sr. won silver in the 400 individual medley and Spitz had a disappointing Games by his lofty expectations, taking silver in the 100 butterfly, bronze in the 100 free and a pair of relay golds, plus a dour eighth in the 200 fly.

But when Spitz won seven gold medals at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, he and Hall were rooming together. The first installment came in the 200 butterfly, with Hall taking silver behind his college teammate and countryman. Both are members of the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

Hall has gotten a long view of the swimming world over the last five decades. The ophthalmologist remained around the sport with his son, Gary Hall Jr., competing at three Olympics. Father and son run the Race Club in Florida.

Hall Sr. also knew enough people who endured the 1980 U.S. Olympic boycott to see similarities in the current moment and how swimmers have had to adjust to the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Having lived through the 1980 boycott, that was a lifelong devastation for some athletes,” Hall Sr. said. “Some of those guys have never gotten over that: one opportunity or chance to win a medal, and it was taken away from them. But this is different. Everyone has taken it well and understands the reasons. The elite athletes I’ve spoken to are OK with it being postponed. A year is a long time, but four years is an eternity for an athlete. A year they can handle. Some of the older people are hanging on, and a lot of really talented young swimmers are coming up. For those guys, the extra year is probably good.”

To read the full interview, visit Olympic.org.

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