Swimming World Presents – The Trouble With Sprinters Part 4: Revisiting the Career of Gary Hall Jr.

01 Hall Ervin 50 free finish 2000-by Heinz Kluetmeier
USA and Phoenix Swim Club teammates Gary Hall Jr. and Anthony Ervin tying for 1st place in the men's 50 free at the 2000 Sydney Olympics

The latest issue of Swimming World Magazine
is now available for download in the Swimming World Vault!

Non-Subscribers Can Download This Issue Here

The Trouble With Sprinters Part 4: Revisiting the Career of Gary Hall Jr.

By Bruce Wigo

This is the fourth part of a series called “The Trouble with Sprinters.” As Dave Marsh and Mike Bottom explained in the previous issue, if there is a problem with sprinters, it is because, mentally, they are wired differently from other athletes. Potential trouble then seems to start when coaches and administrators are unable to understand their behavior and their needs. But while causing trouble for some, the aquatic sports world would not be where it is today without the rebellious personalities of sprinters.

Last month’s article on Gary Hall Jr. (SW September) ended with FINA suspending him in May 1998 from all competitions for three months after testing positive for marijuana.

Gary’s suspension was costly and not just in terms of legal fees. It also caused him to lose his sponsors and stipends from USA Swimming and the USOC. It forced him to miss the 1998 U.S. Nationals—which was the qualification event for the 1999 World Championships—and to withdraw from the Goodwill Games.

And that denied him the opportunity to do something he had always wanted to do more than anything in the world: race against Russia’s Alexander Popov, at the time a double Olympic gold medalist in the 50 and 100 free (1992, 1996) and the world record holder in the men’s 100 meter freestyle.

In March of 1999—just when his suspension was ending—another blow smacked him down even harder. For several months, he had felt fatigued, was constantly thirsty and experienced blurred vision. Then he collapsed at a party. When examined by a doctor, he was diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes, the rarer and most serious form of a disease that afflicts 18 million Americans and kills more people than breast cancer and AIDS combined.

That was one week before spring nationals.

Besides his love of racing, a major reason he returned to swimming was because of Coach Mike Bottom. Unlike many coaches, Mike’s training methods were unorthodox, and his philosophy was cooperative rather than dictatorial. Training became a learning experience for coach and athlete alike.

They experimented with unorthodox training methods both in an out of the pool, using: weightlifting, punching bags, football drills, beer nights and overeating high-protein, omega-rich foods. He also had a great cast of characters to train with, including Anthony “Tony” Ervin, a 19-year phenom from Cal. But more important was the desire to show the world a person living with diabetes is capable of achieving anything they set out to do. He had the reputation in some circles for being a slacker, but slackers were supposed to quit when things get tough—and there certainly was no quit in Gary Hall Jr.

When Gary stepped behind the blocks for the 50 freestyle at the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials, he was wearing a black robe and, underneath it, red-white-and-blue Apollo Creed shorts. He started shadow-boxing when he disrobed—just like he did at the Olympic Games in Atlanta four years earlier.

The crowd roared with delight, and after the gun went off, he proceeded to break the American record with a 21.76. Touching fractions behind was his training partner at Phoenix Swim Club, Tony Ervin (21.80), and both would be going to Sydney. Hall also qualified in the 100, finishing second to Neil Walker.

But the joy of qualifying was tempered by a registered letter from FINA. His appeal of his suspension had made its way to the Court of Arbitration of Sport, and FINA gave him two days to pay a $10,000 fine or face further penalties.

In Sydney, Gary’s famous “We-will-smash-them-like-guitars” prediction about the USA-Aussie rivalry made him a villain to the hometown fans. He was referring to the overall medal count—which the USA won, 33-18—but the Aussie press took his comment out of context and made it appear he was talking about the men’s 400 free relay. In that now legendary race, both teams smashed the world record, but Ian Thorpe outtouched Hall for the gold medal. Hall said afterward it was the best race in which he had ever swum, and he was the first American to congratulate Thorpe and his mates for their victory.

Hall went on to win bronze in the 100 free…and then came the 50—the “sprint of sprints”—and it would be one for the ages. Gary qualified first for the final, followed by Ervin and pre-race favorite Popov.

“Wouldn’t it be great if they tied?” someone actually asked Mike Bottom before the race.

To read the complete story of the infamous 2000 Sydney men’s 50 freestyle race,
Check out the full article in Swimming World’s October 2020 issue, available now!

SW October 2020 - Lia Neal - Working For Change COVER[PHOTO CREDIT: BECCA WYANT/FINIS, INC. PHOTOGRAPHY]

Get Swimming World Magazine and Swimming World Biweekly FREE When You
Become A Member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame

New! 30 Day Membership to ISHOF AND Digital Swimming World Subscription for just $10 a month!

Want more? Get a 1 Year ISHOF Family Membership With Swimming World Print AND Digital Subscription Order Now!

Non-Subscribers can click here to download this issue for only $5.94


Swimming World Magazine October 2020 Issue

FEATURES

012 WORKING FOR CHANGE
by David Rieder
In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, elite swimmers Lia Neal and Jacob Pebley created Swimmers for Change to promote diversity and to make swimming a more inclusive sport and a more inclusive community.

020 THE TROUBLE WITH SPRINTERS (Part 4): REVISITING THE CAREER OF GARY HALL JR.
by Bruce Wigo
As Dave Marsh and Mike Bottom explained in the previous issue, if there is a problem with sprinters, it is because, mentally, they are wired differently from other athletes. Potential trouble then seems to start when coaches and administrators are unable to understand their behavior and their needs. But while causing trouble for some, the aquatic sports world would not be where it is today without the rebellious personalities of sprinters.

026 DEFYING ALL ODDS
by John Lohn
There is no doubt that the Summer of 2004 remains the defining moment in South African swimming history. That’s when Roland Schoeman, Lyndon Ferns, Darian Townsend and Ryk Neethling shocked the world with their Olympic gold medal and world record-setting performance in the men’s 400 meter freestyle relay in Athens.

COACHING

010 PLAN B: WHEN BEST-LAID PLANS GO AWRY
by Michael J. Stott
Bolstering swimmers—in sickness and health—is part and parcel of a coach’s job. When done right, everybody wins.

038 SWIMMING TECHNIQUE CONCEPTS: DR. ANDERS ERICSSON’S CONCEPT OF DELIBERATE PRACTICE
by Rod Havriluk
Dr. Anders Ericsson left a vital legacy for athletes striving to become experts. His deliberate practice concept specifies the key components that help athletes progress to an expert level. The success of deliberate practice suggests that a coach prioritize deliberate practice strategies in team training and relegate conditioning to secondary importance.

040 SPECIAL SETS: MICHAEL PHELPS—FROM GOOD TO GREAT
by Michael J. Stott
The sets included in this article are taken from the 2001-02 short course and early long course season. They are a representative sample of Coach Bob Bowman’s early program in developing Michael Phelps as the greatest Olympic swimmer of all time.

043 Q&A WITH COACH DAN’L MURRAY
by Michael J. Stott

044 HOW THEY TRAIN EMANUEL FAVA
by Michael J. Stott

TRAINING

030 DRYSIDE TRAINING: NO SEASON, NO RACING…NOW WHAT?
by J.R. Rosania
This pandemic has shut down our competition calendar. Whether it’s a high school, college, professional or Olympic season, we need to perform exercises that will help us stay strong, fast and explosive.

JUNIOR SWIMMER

046 UP & COMERS: EMILY WAY
by Shoshanna Rutemiller

COLUMNS & SPECIAL SECTIONS

008 A VOICE FOR THE SPORT

015 HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE

023 DID YOU KNOW? MARY HOERGER

031 PREP SCHOOL DIRECTORY

042 HASTY HIGH POINTERS

047 GUTTERTALK

049 PARTING SHOT
Swimming World is now partnered with the International Swimming Hall of Fame. To find out more, visit us at ishof.org

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.