SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — In March 1999, Gary Hall Jr. was given news that could have threatened his swimming career: He had diabetes.
Many people thought Hall, a world-renowned Olympic swimmer, would be unable to return to the pool.
He had other plans.
Prior to Hall, no one had ever competed in the Olympic Games with Type 1 Diabetes, but that didn’t stop him. He competed in the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games, winning 10 total medals.
Hall is one of six former or current athletes and coaches who was inducted in this year’s Arizona Sports Hall of Fame class on Thursday.
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Because of the adversity he’s overcome, Hall uses his platform to inspire others affected by diabetes.
“To be able to use that accomplishment in sport as a platform to make a diabetes diagnosis a little less scary for kids and their families — letting them know that they’re able to reach their dreams,” Hall said at the induction ceremony. “That’s a message that I’ve worked hard to promote, and there are more and more people out there who are representing what is possible living with Type-1 Diabetes.”
Originally born in Cincinnati, Hall and his family relocated to Arizona when he was a kid. He attended Brophy College Prepatory in Phoenix, and after that, left the Grand Canyon State to swim at the University of Texas.
“It’s a humbling experience when you’re recognized for contributions to sport, but when that contribution comes from your home state, people you grew up with, that means a lot,” Hall said.
From the Suns to the D-backs to everything in between, the Valley has produced a surplus of world-class athletes over the years. Because of this, Hall said he’s proud to be a part of such an elite group.
“To be recognized for athletic accomplishment in the city that hosts such phenomenal teams at every level is a tremendous honor,” Hall said.
Every Phoenician has heard the term “dry heat” at one time or another, referring to the brutal but not-so-humid temperatures that can reach 115 degrees in the summer. Because of this daunting heat, swimming is a popular activity among Valley children and teenagers.
Even so, Hall admitted that he never expected the transition from casual swimming to the Olympics.
“To transition that backyard cannonball competition to an Olympic Gold medal — I never expected it for most of my career,” Hall said. “I’m just tickled that that’s where it ended.”
Not only does Hall want to inspire those with diabetes, but he also hopes his message is motivation for kids to stay active.
“I hope it serves as an inspiration for other kids out there to be physically active,” Hall said. “You don’t have to win an Olympic gold medal to enjoy the benefits of sport.”
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