Gary Hall, Jr. is a ten-time Olympic medalist, part of a swimming dynasty, (his father, Gary Hall, Sr., was also a three-time Olympian swimmer) and a fighter (his unique training involves boxing techniques and he’s the only swimmer endorsed by Everlast). He’s also a Type-1 diabetic.
The disease gave him a new purpose. Today, it’s to show the rest of the world that diabetes didn’t beat his dreams. The 32-year-old is the national spokesperson for the American Diabetes Association and tours the nation and world speaking about his experience with diabetes. He’s active with the ADA’s public awareness campaigns during November Diabetes Month and Diabetes Alert, and has participated in satellite media tours. He was on the cover of Diabetes Forecast Magazine and attended the Call to Congress event to speak to diabetes advocates and youth.
In 2004, he partnered with Becton, Dickinson and Company, a manufacturer of diabetes care products, to teach diabetics nationwide about good care. He plans to continue endorsing products that will promote swimming and motivate people suffering from diabetes.
As a child, he swam recreationally because of his father’s Olympic success. When Hall turned 16, he began competing seriously and training for national meets. His first Olympics in 1996 turned out two individual silver medals and two relay gold medals. But it was 1999, after taking an extended leave and during his attempts to return, when the Olympian famous for shadow boxing and flexing his muscles before every swim race began fighting for his life.
After suffering from months of fatigue, constant thirst and blurry vision, Hall collapsed at a party. He was later diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes, which makes him insulin-dependent. That was one week before Spring Nationals. Horrified by the doctors’ news that he couldn’t compete anymore, Hall fled to South America. One by one, his corporate sponsors dropped him until he had to sell his car to get to the Olympic trials.
Upon his return, he heard about an endocrinologist in Los Angeles who said there was no reason he needed to quit competitive swimming. Together, they worked to bring him back into full training without threatening his health.
Hall became an aquatics icon, winning an individual gold and three relay medals in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He took another gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, at age 29, making him the oldest U.S. male in 80 years do so. All that was accomplished while injecting insulin several times a day.
His persistence and determination to succeed showed other athletes and diabetes patients that nothing should stop them.