New kid on the blog
Ticket To Beijing's newest blogger was on the phone the other day. We had just started a conference call to discuss story angles and plans for our upcoming Beijing Games coverage.
"Welcome to the L.A. Times," I told him.
"I'm the king of the world," Gary Hall Jr. responded with a laugh.
So, with much pleasure, here's an introduction to our newest blogger in Beijing.
Gary Hall Jr. will be providing commentary on the races from the perspective of a three-time Olympian. He can take you behind the scenes in and around the Games.
I first met Gary in 1996 at a pre-Olympic meet hosted by the Phoenix Swim Club and wondered if his slacker reputation was a bit one-dimensional. It truly was.
Since then, he's gone from rebellion to marriage and fatherhood and managed to win swimming's marquee Olympic event, the 50-meter freestyle, at the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Games.
The first Olympic victory wasn't long after he was diagnosed with Type I diabetes. Hall has made it his mission to serve as a role model for those with diabetes. He wants to educate the public and prove that a diabetes diagnosis does not mean the end of an athletic career.
We had lunch last winter in Irvine when he was taking time away from his training to do some work for BD Medical, including a motivational appearance at the Children's Hospital of Orange County, where he met with 50 or so diabetic children.
He told me stories about giving out his cellphone number to newly diagnosed people, and also calling someone recently diagnosed with diabetes. Many times, the youngster on the other end doesn't believe it's Hall on the line.
A couple of us met up again with Hall in June in Omaha. Again he spoke about his efforts. And when someone asked whether he was going to go into politics, he said that he leaned "slightly left."
"The extent of my politics today is stem cell research, and so I’ll put forth efforts to allocate more funding for diabetes research and stem cell research," Hall said. "Those are the political issues I’ve been involved in for a very long time."
He did get off a good line about presumptive GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, who was closely tied to Hall's grandfather -- former S&L executive Charles Keating Jr.
"I remember his comb-over most vividly when I was a kid," Hall said. "It was like this huge sea fan attached to the side of his head when he’d go underwater. We always kind of laughed about that."
Just a slice of the Hall humor. We've often joked that Gary has been a headline-making machine, and hopefully he'll be making (and writing) a few for us.
-- Lisa Dillman
Photo: Gary Hall celebrates after winning the gold medal in the 50-meter freestyle at the 2004 Athens Games. Credit: Mark Baker/Associated Press Photo
Note: Each of Hall's columns will carry a logo for Inspired by Diabetes, a global campaign that encourages people touched by diabetes to share their stories with others around the world. The program is a collaboration between Eli Lilly and Co.mpany and the International Diabetes Federation’s (IDF) Unite for Diabetes initiative. In the U.S., the American Diabetes Assn. is the program’s national advocate. For more information, visit inspiredbydiabetes.com