Gary Hall Show Notes


0:02 / 51:18

The Game Plan T1D Podcast: Episode 13 - Gary Hall Jr.

28 views

00SHARESAVE

Sam Benger

Published on Oct 28, 2018

ANALYTICS

EDIT VIDEO

This episode of the Game Plan T1D Podcast features T1D all-star Gary Hall Jr. Gary competed at the 1996, 2000, and 2004 Olympic Games swimming for the United States, and winning 10 medals, 5 of those being gold. Gary battled past a 1999 T1D diagnosis that threatened his swimming career. Continuing to inspire Diabetics after the pool, Gary transitioned to a role in Diabetes advocacy promoting promising research and supporting efforts to find a cure. Please enjoy my conversation with Gary Hall Jr.

SHOW MORE

Transcript

hi guys Sam here I'm pumped to be

sharing today's episode with you I had

the chance to sit down with Olympic gold

medalist Gary Hall junior Gary battled

past a t1d diagnosis in 1999 at which

point some doctors told him he would

never swim competitively again Gary went

on to compete at the 1996 2000 and 2004

Olympic Games representing the United

States and winning 10 medals five of

those being gold continuing to inspire

diabetics after the pool dare transition

to a role in diabetes health care and

advocacy promoting promising research in

supporting efforts to find a cure please

enjoy my conversation with Gary hollow

jr. welcome to the game plan to und

podcast

I'm your host Sam bender on this podcast

we explore the lives of athletes living

with t1d

to try to uncover what it is that allows

them to excel despite their diabetes

today on the show is my pleasure to be

joined by Gary Hall jr. Gary welcome to

the show and how are you doing today I'm

doing great thanks so much for having me

on so you know given the really the

sheer volume of your story as a as a

diabetic as an athlete in terms of what

you were able to accomplish in the pool

and also really transitioning out of the

sport of swimming and into the health

care space sort of serving as a diabetes

advocate I thought the best spot to sort

of start this interview would be your

childhood and growing up and sort of

doing some of my preliminary research I

was reading that your father Gary Hall

senior also competed in three Olympics

as a swimmer and also there was some

swimming talent in sort of your mom's

side of the family or your wife's side

of the family with an uncle and also a

maternal grandfather being you know

Olympians and national swimming champion

so when was it that you first sort of

started to see that swimming was a

passion of yours and also that you were

so sort of naturally gifted at it as

well I learned how to swim before I

could walk my aunt taught me how and she

was a successful collegiate swimmer

oh there were six siblings on my

mother's side she was one of six and

they were all successful swimmers their

father my maternal grandfather was a

collegiate champion after World War two

in the years when they didn't have the

Olympics and so I had swimming on that

side of the family my father was a

three-time Olympian he won three Olympic

medals he hid in the 1968 Mexico City

Games 72 and Munich and 76 in Montreal

after winning a bronze medal in the

hundred butterfly he hoisted me on his

shoulder I was a less than two and

carried me around the cool back for the

awards ceremony and so some would say

that I was indoctrinated into the sport

at a very young age and we grew up

swimming I am one of six the oldest of

six and we were all successful swimmers

most to a collegiate level and so you

know when we would go on family

vacations it was always too kind of a

water destination you know a lot of

snorkeling and it that's really where I

fell in love with swimming was the ocean

I was living down in South Florida and

the Florida Keys and then the Bahamas as

a youngster growing up I really fell in

love with just the element of water as a

life source more than you know a venue

to exercise a competitive spirit that

wouldn't surface until many many years

later but on my father's side he was

from a line of doctors he was a third

third generation doctor himself he took

a year off medical school to train for

and compete in the 1976 Olympic Games

and practice 25 years as an eye surgeon

in Phoenix Arizona

his father was an orthopedic surgeon

and his grandfather my great-grandfather

was a general practitioner and after I

graduated from high school my father

pulled me aside and said if you go into

medicine I'll kill you

hi he was very fed up as our health care

system everyone knows struggles in a lot

of different areas and there was a lot

of frustrations that my father

experienced that most doctors

experienced in their careers today and

so um you know I to rebel against him I

chose to go into medicine and a

completely different capacity and that

was as a patient rights advocate really

kind of trying to get diabetes research

advanced more efficiently did that for a

lot of years and his diabetes has become

such a huge problem nationwide

International diabetes focus has been a

bigger part of health care in general

and so I graduated up through the ranks

of the diabetes organizations and tilted

my way into a broader health care

delivery with these integrated

healthcare systems and so initially what

was a kind of paid athlete endorsement

spokesperson for pharmaceutical and

medical device companies turned into

patient outreach programs platforms that

would mobilize patient populations get

them enrolled in clinical trials get

better treatments out to that same

patient population and and and then also

advocate on part of youth sports you

know what kids with a chronic condition

you know how for a volunteer coach you

know how do they you know how do we

train these people how do we bring

awareness to the issues here to avoid

exclusion from sport or discouragement

after my diagnosis I was told by two

doctors that would be then my swimming

career and was able to prove them wrong

but you know

a lot of kids are you know when they

face you know asthma or type 1 diabetes

or some other chronic condition like

that you know they just get the bench or

excluded entirely so that was a passion

of mine and continues to be and yeah

working with these health care systems

to make a sport a safer more positive

experience I also work with a couple

other organizations

that's the Aspen Institute sports and

society program an incredible incredibly

thoughtful group on how to make sport

more widely accessible to not just the

privileged but the underprivileged as

well in terms of socio-economic standing

and and another group of the national

youth sport Health and Safety Institute

and I serve on the leadership board with

that organization a partnership with the

American College of Sports Medicine and

a new formed partnership with safe sport

and face board is an or the u.s. Center

for safe sport as an organization it's a

addressing abuse in youth sports

something that was negligently

overlooked for too many years so a lot

of different touch points between health

care and sport and I'm trying to bridge

those gaps kind of in a diplomatic way

at a national level certainly and I

think perhaps I definitely want to

circle back to the guiding principles

behind your advocacy work and really

what's driving what you're trying to do

because I think that's one of the more

compelling parts of your story really

but it's funny you mentioned and I want

to return to the start of your swimming

career for the time being but you

mentioned you falling in love with

swimming down off the Florida Keys and

the warm water down there snorkeling and

it's kind of funny because I feel like

that lends itself to a more sort of

leisurely pace of swimming but your

career you were a a sprinter in the pool

and when did that switch and transition

really happen to you from you know lover

of water to competitive sprinter

the pool yeah there was I must have been

about fourteen and I was at a swim meet

in Glendale Arizona on a rainy day it

was cold and I didn't really want to be

there the swim mates can last all

weekend long and I was entered in a

number of events one of them being the

200 freestyle I dove in and was swimming

and if he had asked me at that point if

I was giving on 100% I'm sure I would

have answered yes but something happened

in the middle that race and my eyes

locked with another swimmer about five

lanes over that's maybe the 50 meter

mark there was a hundred and fifty left

and something happened in my brain at

that very precise moment and that was

I'm gonna beat that guy he was the body

lengths ahead of me and I just found

another gear and started trying in a way

that I had never really tried before

that in a way that I wasn't really aware

that I had and so um a week we slugged

it out stroke for stroke and I was able

to just barely out touch them at the

last stroke of that race and it felt

great and I think it was 37th place or

something like that it wasn't for all

the glory or this was you know an arm

arms up in the air moments after that

race but that was my first real

connection with the competitive aspect

of the sport and I immediately was

attracted to it and that remained

why I endured so many countless hours of

her torturous type of training that is

required to be a world-class athlete is

that the thrill of racing and standing

up and trying to beat the person on the

black blocks next

you became really what drove me in the

sport and push me to such achievement

mmm it's pretty fascinating that you can

recall such a you know finite explicit

moment where it was like that that

moment you locking eyes with that other

competitor that was the spark that you

needed I don't think most athletes have

that moment it's more of a sort of a

vague you know this is what I want to do

this is what I'm passionate about but

what do you think can you attribute that

to anything that moment where it was

just a like a light switch sort of went

off for you well I think that like a lot

of youth I think that I had some kind of

teenage angst going and I think that a

lot of us kind of have within us a dark

energy right something that and that's

not necessarily a bad way sink more yin

yang you know kind of summer intertwined

balance of positive and negative that

you know and and so sport became such a

healthy outlet and channeling some of

that teenage angst and the frustrated

daily frustrations that we all

experienced and because such a great

outlet and so you know they talked about

a day I remember as a youth swimmer you

know encountering Olympians and I had no

thought that I was ever going to reach

that level myself one day when you know

encountering these folks for the first

time and you know they would speak about

the values of sport about instilling a

work ethic and go with payment and you

know getting back up when you get

knocked down all that good stuff and you

know I wasn't really aware that I was

absorbing that white chlorine through

those countless hours of being in the

swimming pool

very early and late hours of the day but

you know that those kind of attributes

you know are developed are honed and in

sport and you know those were realized

in that moment when that light switch

went off and yeah made me more committed

as a person not just to the sport of

swimming but an ability to do to make

that commitment and other applications

of life and so yeah all of that kind of

feeds back to where that that one moment

where the skies opened up through that

cloudy day in Glendale and and and kind

of said hey yeah there's something about

this sport thing that is appealing to me

and something that I connect with I

think that a lot of us live with that

engrained it's part of who we are and it

was one of the biggest realizations for

me that that competitive nature and and

the know we'll try to find a healthy

outlet for that was a dark energy that

that something that that that rawness

that sport triggers something's so

primitive in all of us that it's just

part of who we are and it was realized

too when I went to the Olympics in 2004

in Athens going around that city during

the on begins before and after and

seeing these incredible tributes just

sport in both art and architecture

dating back thousands of years it was uh

became very clear that you know this is

part of who we are and sports celebrates

that all of those things that Olympians

rattle on about and you were mentioning

sort of realizing for you that sports

was an outlet for sort of potentially as

you as you called it like dark energy I

think it's pretty unique for an athlete

to have the realization of sports as a

character molding Experion

and while they're still competing I

think usually for most people that

happens afterwards but you also talked

about some of the training that we're

doing as a swimmer and I'm always in all

the training in the diet that swimmers

in particular have to go through to be

competitive

I remember hearing about Michael fight

Michael Phelps eating some ungodly

amount of calories something like 12,000

calories in a day and spending upwards

of six hours in a pool can you describe

a typical day of training leading up to

those 96 Olympic Games yeah I mean

through the close to 16 years that I was

representing the United States on an

international level typically it ran

between six and eight hours a day and

that was six days weeks and yeah

anything that's physically grueling

would be included it wasn't just back

and forth in the pool we would do a lot

of cross-training dryland activity core

strength boxing work on the track and

yeah a lot of time in the weight room as

well hmm

so walk us through really going to those

first Olympic Games in Atlanta in 96 you

were just 21 years old obviously

representing your country Team USA you

know the Olympics has to be experienced

as sort of a you know culmination of

years of training pretty much your whole

career as a swimmer and then in your

specific events you have less than 60

seconds sometimes less than 30 seconds

to show the whole world sort of all of

those years of effort and experiences

swimming in that short little amount of

time what's going through your mind on

the blocks as you're standing up there

as an Olympian for the first time here

where the pressure

everyone knows yes you've invested a lot

of time and effort to get to this point

it's great responsibility representing

the

states of america on an international

stage you're aware that people are

cheering for you counting on you and and

so yeah that's a good thing but it's

also can create a lot of pressure and

and i think the first time out you

really come into contact with that and

nothing can prepare you but on

experience and there are a number well

most Olympic sports swimming included

nobody joins to achieve fame and fortune

you know you don't join the swim team

thinking that you've really mean is that

the odds are so stacked against you

being successful I don't care how fast

your father could swim you know those

that actually make it to that world

stage are so few and are so committed

and dedicated to the talent pool is so

deep you know among that group and so to

you know make that into that circle of

camaraderie is a tremendous honor in

itself and and and responsibilities in

itself as well but it's nice to have

other teammates that have been there

before that is a mentorship that comes

through sport experience and that's

traditionally been the way it is you

know those older athletes that may be a

little bit more aware of the impact what

the Olympic movement is to a world today

you know they help guide the the rookies

if you were through that expect

potentially overwhelming experience

certainly yeah it's funny I'm curious to

see during your Olympic pre-race routine

it's been noted that you were always

sort of a guy to watch you would shadow

box and you would also come out with

sort of like a USA Stars and Stripes

robe as opposed to the typical

you know speedo or whatever sort of

competitive gear was sort of the default

where did where did that passion and

enthusiasm sort of come from for you um

horsing around in high school that's

where it started we'd go to swim mates

um and I just yeah I was a super skinny

lanky kid no muscle tone at all as a

young swimmer even through my high

school years I was such a late bloomer I

grew three three inches after I got

college so Wow

a freshman sophomore year of high school

I was this gangly toothpick kind of

character and I'd get up behind the

blocks and stuck flexing like doing

muscle flexes like Randy Macho Man

Savage and in trash-talking in a similar

way and it was a funny thing like that

it first you notice is not meant to be

intimidating at all and as a system you

know also a realization that sport is

entertainment that we can't take

ourselves too seriously out there I've

never had a problem with that and so you

know it to help alleviate some of that

pressure that I was talking about just

earlier you know I was able to kind of

what I thought in a row bring something

kind of fun or funny

so that entailed the you know flexing

behind the blocks or shadowboxing or

whatnot some of the antics that are

involved and ultimately by the end of my

career I think people were intimidated

you know I thought it was more of a you

know

Moxie Simo type of something than over

and especially a lot of foreigners too

they really kind of thought it was

unpatriotic but I'll tell you another

story too about the Stars and Stripes

robe that was um as the largest fine I

believe that USA Swimming it had ever

given out at the time definitely but it

was breaking the Uniform Code for the

United States Olympic Committee sponsors

pay a lot of money

have you wear their outfit behind the

blocks and in 2004 which is when I wore

the Stars and Stripes rogue it was the

first Olympics um ER Olympics after the

terrorist attack 9/11 2001 and the

Olympics being held in Athens and its

proximity to the Middle East there was a

lot of security concerns for Team USA

that we might be a target and as a

result of these concerns it was

interesting because for the first time

Team USA uniforming wasn't so Team USA

there was nothing that identified USA on

the most of the outsets if it was

written it was written very small they

were not red white and blue they were

red white or blue and there was no USA

flag flown in the Olympic Village Wow

and you think about that yeah that that

was remarkable to me because they didn't

want to identify what buildings we were

in and so I thought okay I understand

safety concerns and everything but

that's taken a little too far this is

the biggest honor that any athlete can

have is representing the United States I

mean representing your hometown or city

or even state is a big deal but to

represent all of the United States and

not be able to wear the American flag to

me that's a little bit crazy it's going

too far so I part of it was a yeah a

protest to this policy and over concerns

for safety and and so you know a lot of

people saw that and really liked it more

people I remember the the robe than the

race yeah now it's interesting did that

rub off on any of your relay teammates

as well were they getting into some of

some of that sort of horsing around or

was it more strictly business for those

guys um

No is mostly you know horsing around

there was you know people that were in

on the joke and we were laughing about

it back at the hotel room after you know

in between prelims and finals or after

the final sessions oh yeah you know

something to joke about

I don't think anybody took it too

seriously you know then you know as I

got faster and got stronger you know

then you know I think maybe some people

you know it was distracting in that and

sport weird that you know margins are so

small so it took 21 seconds from my

safety freestyle and and 48 seconds for

a hundred meters freestyle which was my

distance event so I you know I was a

drop dead sprinting all along and we

weren't out there for very long and the

margins between first and eight plays

are hundreds sometimes tenths of a

second and so yeah and he definitely had

to be focused on the competitive aspect

like you couldn't compromise or be too

distracted with your pre-race antics

um you know went when it came time to

focus like there's no compromise on that

front and I think to something we talked

about just in terms of the difference

the differences between your two events

in the 53 and also the 4x4 by one relay

free what is sort of the difference in

terms of the preparation for those

events and also your experience as a

competitor in those I know you know I

don't have any experience swimming but

you know I played football through

college in the camaraderie and the sort

of the Brotherhood of the sport is

something that I always immensely

enjoyed what was that process like for

you as competitor on those relay teams

but also as a individual competitor at

the Olympics yeah it's funny people do

consider you know whether you're a team

or individual sport and a lot of people

regard swimming as an individual sport

but the training that is involved for

all members

a swim team I mean you go through the

equivalent of torture if any of these

practices were you know being committed

in Guantanamo the human rights activist

involved what a fleets put themselves

through to get to that elite level you

know so you know there is a

team-building experience through that

and then that is manifested in the

relays and that is where you get to step

up with some of these people that you've

trained with that you have this

connection with a bond and and be able

to rely on another which is so important

in developing on the psychology of an

athlete too is this that you know we may

at the end of the day on some races step

up on those blocks by ourselves but we

have a team a support team behind us of

the trainers strength trainers

chiropractors massage therapists

nutritionists coaches parents family and

you know we represent you know all of

them as much as we represent ourselves

at least those swimmers that are

appreciative enough to recognize that

hmm I think we that's one of the topics

that we like to sort of hammer home on

this podcast of the fact that as a an

athlete alone but especially as a

diabetic athlete there are such immense

support networks even like you mentioned

for athletes in the so-called individual

sports that empower them to excel and to

succeed so Gary the the conversation up

to this point has been Gary Hall jr. the

athlete and now I'm interested to hear

about Gary Hall jr. the diabetic athlete

and I'm always intrigued to hear how

individuals were diagnosed with t1d

relatively later in their lives I know

from my sort of background research that

14 years old is regarded by some to be

sort of an average age of diagnosis in

the t1d community

but you were diagnosed in sort of the

midst of what I imagined to be a very

regimented and demanding athletic

program where you're you know in the

pool and doing cross-training and you

mentioned boxing and running on the

track under eating certain amounts of

food at certain times all of this has to

be even more so carefully examined with

the added factor of diabetes what do you

remember from your diagnosis in 1999 and

what was the mindset that allowed you to

move past that sort of the initial doubt

and fear and darkness and go out and

compete very soon after that at the 2000

Sydney games so there's no question I

couldn't have made it back to the sport

certainly not at any elite level had it

not been for the team

with dr. Anne Peters currently at the

USC Tech School of Medicine she to me

was as important as my swim coach or my

strength trainer or anyone else that was

part of that team that was backing me

and supporting me through this pursuit

of trying to make it back to the

Olympics after a diabetes diagnosis

nobody had ever competed with type 1

diabetes at the Olympic Games prior to

Munich and you know that's breaking

through a barrier and making that

diagnosis a little less scary for you

know future generations

that's a greater accomplishment than the

Olympic gold medal so um again I just

want to give that shout-out to dr. Ann

Peters there's no way that I could have

done it without her and her team yeah

it's funny that's her name is one that

is you know every couple episodes one of

our athletes is referencing dr. Ann

Peters and you know obviously a shout

out to her for the great work that she's

doing and empowering athletes but you

personally Gary was there a certain

mindset outside of the practices that

dr. Peters and you're you know your

strength coach in your swim coach

outlined for you that personally

he allowed you to continue forward yeah

everything had to be changed is like

learning how to swim

all over again in a lot of ways what I

was able to do and what I was not able

to do at that elite level and that and

the necessary training that was involved

and you know just trying to figure out

the tricks of diabetes management

through this very strenuous endeavor the

stress the endorphins the adrenaline the

hormones that are involved in exercise

at that level had dramatic effects on my

blood sugar control so all of this while

learning what a sliding scale was and

carb counting and you know trying to

figure out how many units of insulin to

be giving myself for an English muffin

you know and making the mistakes that

you inevitably make through that

learning process

you know there were plenty of times

where I quickly had to assess that

didn't work it lets the classroom again

you know add that approach what can we

do differently and this is again you

know citing earlier those qualities that

sport instills that was something that I

was already you know engrained with as

an athlete looking for those measurable

ways to improve you know and really

assessing right like what could we have

done better there to improve and so

applying that fortitude toward an

aggressive diabetes management regime

enabled me to really kind of keep it

under tabs enough that you know I could

finally you know get myself to the

starting blocks and be able for 21

seconds or 48 seconds being able to

forget that I have diabetes I've done

everything I can to take care of it up

to this point has been in control

and you're able to just not worry about

it for the duration of the race but

immediately after the race you're

running to that diabetes kit again

because you you know to get it back

under control for your next race yeah I

know you mentioned you know being on the

blocks and being in a sport where you're

essentially a supporter like you would

be on the track you're going to undergo

so much adrenaline and we know

scientifically that cortisol will raise

your blood sugar levels was that

something that you experienced and did

you have any tips to try to go about

combating that or was it just a general

awareness of okay as soon as this race

is over I need to get some insulin on

board to try to get back into a good

range what was that experience like and

sort of learning about the effects of

adrenaline uh it was dramatic I didn't

have anyone there saying this is core to

cortisol response you know at this spike

and you know this is what's expected you

know it was a trial and error process

for me and if I remember the first times

that I got those spikes associated with

the competition at the elite level the

stress that's involved the pressure the

hormones the Dorf ins the cortisol

everything that my blood sugar would

skyrocket just in such a short period of

time and they would take a lot of hims

when to reel it back in and I had to do

it as quickly as possible and prepare me

for the next race if my blood sugar

level there was not in that target range

my performance was compromised in a

sport that's measured to the hundredths

of a second so yeah it would be life or

death and in terms of athletic

performance mmm it's funny we actually

had on our third episode Jim Edwards he

was a in his high school days he was a

swimmer that traveled all around the

world he traveled to Monaco and he would

swim on a international level and

compete but this was back in the

nineteen nineteen sixties and in his

living with t1d their game plan with his

coach

was that prior to his hundred-meter I

forget if it was free straw

freestyle or what the stroke was but

prior to that 100-meter race he would

swim 10 100-meter laps to counteract the

cortisol response in his high blood

sugar essentially so it's very

fascinating to see how that process has

changed over time and how people are

continuing to try to deal with the

response to adrenaline but Gary you

would also go on to compete in 2004 in

Athens at age 29 which made you the

oldest US Olympic swimmer since Duke and

I'm probably going to butcher his last

name but Kahanamoku in 1924 where you

went on to win a gold and bronze medal

in the 50-meter freestyle on the 4 by

100 freestyle relay sort of after those

Oh four games and closing out your

competitive career in the pool in 2008

having won 10 Olympic medals and 5 of

those being gold is there a particular

moment a race perhaps a relay team that

stands out to you as sort of the

proudest moment of your competitive

career in the pool and winning at 29 and

and defending that title and the 50

freestyle from the Olympics prior that I

mean if there's a postcard moment of my

career is it's that and it just it felt

like the top of the mountain if you ask

me what who raised I'm most proud of is

the bronze medal and 100 freestyle in

Sydney I had no business being in that

race and that was just it guts swim

that was the bravest swim in my career

it's interesting in a sport that's tough

you know decided as you talked about

earlier by hundreds of seconds when

you're on the blocks before the race is

it one of those things where it's really

anybody's ballgame and you know when you

jump into that pool how much of that

event is it executing a gameplan and how

much a visit of that event is just pure

guts like you talked about with the

that bronze medal anyone who is in the

finals at the Olympic Games is

physically capable of winning it the

determinant at that point is between the

winner and and second players in last

place and that race is guts and and

psychological and there's a lot of

psychology and sport and you know

walking into a ready room with the

world's seven of the world's other

fastest swimmers he could always thought

maybe one or two that you know looked

nervous and you could maybe rule out a

couple but there were any number of

other elite athletes in that room that

you really kind of knew who was going to

be there if you look so to give you an

idea how close these races are the

cumulative margin of victory for the two

Olympic gold medals I had in the 50

freestyle was 1/100 of a second I tied

my friend and teammate Anthony Irvin in

2004 the gold medal to the hundredth of

a second and in 2004 to defend that

title I won by 1/100 of a second now to

give you a broader look at how small

these margins are 16 years later after

2000 when I tied Antony Ervin he makes a

comeback out of nowhere

becomes the oldest man to win an

individual Olympic gold medal by winning

the 50 freestyle in Rio at these past

Olympic Games he won by 1/100 of a

second so the cumulative margin of four

Olympic gold medals was two one

hundredths of a second if you include

both my accomplishment and his the

previous guys before I arrived on the

scene he won Olympics back to back his

name was Alex Popov a Russian so three

guys have won six Olympic medals by the

slimmest of margins over these last so

the games and so you know even though

the margins are so small it's the same

people that are consistently kind of

making the metal stand and the

difference is not in the training so

much the difference is a heart and soul

mmm it is really sort of this harsh

dichotomy where you have these guys you

know all of those competitors at that

level are putting in the training and

the work and you know the psychological

work the mindset work that you talked

about earlier and it all comes down to

you know those years of training comes

down to you know a finger tip

essentially of a difference in terms of

a reach but it certainly appears that

you know you've had some gutty

performances over the years and that

those gutted performances have been

transitioned out of the pool as well and

you were talking about your advocacy

work earlier and I'm a huge fan of your

work

outside the pool and you've worked with

JDRF's government relations committee

you've testified before Senate and in

2004 you even won a Humanitarian Award

what fueled for you such a decisive

switch from athlete to advocate and what

were some of your sort of goals from NAV

exceed perspective that motivated you in

this space yes well I was fortunate I

mean shortly after my diagnosis a

wonderful woman synonymous with JDRF

Karen Brownlee she reached out to me and

she told me about this event in

Washington DC where kids were going to

go visit with their representatives and

that was the first children's congress

for JDRF and i was back in 1999 and so

just a few months after being diagnosed

with no assurance at all that i could

make it back to the sport at that point

JDRF had connected with me had offered

me a network of support through the

grassroots ad because he work that a

community does so well and so I through

Karen Brownlee was yes inspired there's

no other word for

you know the work that she was doing to

advance diabetes research was that

really had an impact on me and then

obviously you know when you win an

Olympic gold medal and you have type 1

diabetes there opens the doors to a lot

of different diabetes research

organizations and so I had this

privilege back door tour of some of the

most incredible science teams in the in

the world and and that always inspired

me as much as you know I could have

hoped to inspire them you know being

able to see their commitment to diabetes

research that's a level of commitment

that I was familiar with you know in

dedicating that type of time and focus

to my swimming career and you know these

people you know ultimately will one day

cure diabetes and so cus I was really

really interested and so being able to

go around and meet with these people and

lobby on their behalf among our elected

officials in Washington DC or among you

know funders people that you know fund

this research and invest in these

companies that are developing better

products to manage diabetes and to one

day eliminated entirely just making that

connection building that network making

those connections that was something

that I enjoyed doing and I was good at

doing and using that accomplishments

board as a platform to open doors and

open ears I mean that was a something

that was so rewarded rewarding to me I

just um in was was always aware of that

responsibility that opportunity that

sudden we see to know so often I was

athletes fumble you know that they could

really inspire others and be a role

model and try to do something good and

you know and they just don't and so you

know I I embraced that opportunity when

it came up and and could have never

anticipated

hated you know as a youngster on the

swim team that I'd have swimming to

thank for that opportunity and and just

wanted to make the most of it so you

know I have continued to be involved as

much as I possibly can and I'm so

passionate about it it's sometimes hard

to find the balance you know yeah I'm

gonna have to reel myself back in it's

got a couple kids and I've got to work

too so you know like I can't any longer

say yes that every request to attend

you know diabetes fundraiser or

something like that anymore

but you know I see others picking up

that torch and carrying and on and and

in the progress as a results over these

many years of advocacy work seeing

changes to policy seeing new devices

available and better medications that's

a great reward but I'm not letting up

until we have a cure absolutely I love

the mindset and Gary what for you right

now is perhaps do you think the most

promising you know either this could be

a piece of research or a you know a

product that is either out on the market

or in a you know a pipeline type of

state that has you think the potential

to really make a positive impact on the

diabetic community there is a trial

underway right now at Stanford Health

it's called the t-rex study Kirk Griffin

is involved in that and I served with

Curt on the national youth sport Health

and Safety Institute leadership board

Curt is working on this trial and yeah

it's a stem cell application where

they're taking the stem cells from the

adipose which is belly fat and

retraining the the T cells or there's

something like that you know I never had

the education to fully understand all

the research speak that goes on and

these labs and conferences that I attend

but I've been around enough to know this

one looks

really promising I'm really excited

about it I think they're about to find

out

results from state from the phase two

but um you know I keep my I try to keep

my finger on the pulse of what's

happening around the world on that front

particularly interested in the stem cell

research though and what that has to

offer to diabetes and in all other

diseases hmm

yeah I always like to think back to when

I was diagnosed back in 2000 you know

five years old and just how far we've

come you know in the eighteen years

since I've been diagnosed is remarkable

and then you extrapolate that forward to

think about what we'll be able to

accomplish in the next five ten fifteen

years and you consider that the rate of

growth is hopefully accelerating and not

decelerating a cure is definitely

somewhere on the horizon and hopefully

coming soon because we have people like

yourself and other people who are

promoting and advocating and working to

find a cure and to do research that

makes a difference so you've

accomplished so much in just 44 years

obviously in the pool and outside of it

what's next for Gary Halsey and you're

sort of as you continue forward and as

you mentioned navigate between family

life and the diabetes advocate role as

well one day at a time put one foot in

front of the other you get to the top of

very very very tall mountains by taking

very very small steps and you know I'm

just headed in a direction and putting

one foot in from there and we get to to

definitely definitely high places I love

the the mindset and we like to sort of

close with common question Gary if you

could send a message to a diabetic out

there that's struggling right now

perhaps they were just diagnosed or they

may just be going through a particular

rough patch what would your message be

to that person and why don't give up

don't lose hope you know you can stay on

top of managing this disease and if you

just lose hope and then stop trying for

six months or a year it ruins

everything like yeah you can get these

terrible complications there's no

walking back from and now the damage is

is this lasting so even if it's for a

short period of time look we all get

discouraged coming from a guy that has

ten Olympic medals there's plenty of

days where I don't feel like getting out

of bed but you get up anyway you strap

on your shoes and go at it and get

through it if you have to get through it

there's going to be there's better days

coming but don't give up I've seen it

happen too many times and there's enough

that can go wrong if you are tried if

you are staying on top of that and doing

everything that you're supposed to be

doing and there's enough bad days

involved through that process we all

know anybody living with type 1 diabetes

that do everything right nothing seems

to go right some days but you know deal

with that discouragement and it get get

up and and stay with it don't give up on

it absolutely couldn't endorse that

message more and Gary thank you so much

for coming on the podcast and really

truly thank you so much for being an

inspiration to the diabetic community at

large oh it's my pleasure

and you know I don't consider myself an

inspiration to the diabetes community at

large just for the record I want to

point that out you know I think that we

all have a role to play in this

remarkable community that binds us maybe

it's not that that's circumstance that

gets us here but you know we are part of

a larger group that is moving the needle

in terms of better health and wellness

in the United States day and ended one

day we'll we'll get to eradicating this

disease this horrible horrible disease

entirely from the face of the years and

I'm very much looking forward to that

day and being part of the team that

accomplishes that we're all part of that

team I'm Gary Hall jr. I have type 1

diabetes and I have a game plan

[Music]

we hope you enjoyed this episode of the

game plan to indie podcast for related

content please visit