April 5, 2008

Gary Hall throws Aussie tabloids on the barbie

COLUMBUS -- American swimmer Gary Hall has never been afraid of a little tussle, be it verbal or physical. This is a man, after all, who once punched a shark in the mouth several times when it attacked his sister while they were fishing in the Florida Keys.

Lately though, he's been reigniting his long-running feud with the Australian media, a feud that both parties seems to enjoy more than they're willing to admit.

The latest salvo came tonight at the Ohio State Toyota Grand Prix when Hall, after finishing third in the 50 meter freestyle, got in a spirited dig at the Aussie tabloids for, he says, taking his recent comments about Australia's Eamon Sullivan out of context.

Last month, Hall said a lot of people might be suspicious of Sullivan after he set a world record (21.56) in the 50 free, considering it was a personal best time for him by half a second, a huge margin in sprints.

"I am not accusing Eamon of cheating," Hall Jr said in mid-March before the start of the Australian Olympic trials. "I have been in this sport for a very long time and I have never seen such a drop in time from an elite swimmer. Similar drops have been made by athletes that later
were proven cheaters. It's no fault of Eamon that a lot of people are going to look at his swim suspiciously, unless of course he did cheat. The public has a right to be suspicious of doping when they see a drop like that."

Hall's words were big news in Australia, and were plastered all over the back page cover of the tabloids, drawing howls of "sour grapes" from swimmer Grant Hackett. Asked if he wanted to respond to the uproar Down Under, Hall didn't back down.

"Nothing I said wasn't true," the 33-year-old Hall said last night. "Just because there's this suspicion surrounding his swim doesn't mean I'm responsible for that suspicion. It was obviously a page-turner for the tabloids in Australia. I've come to expect that from the irresponsible Australian media. They have a bad habit of taking things out of context."

This is only the latest scrap between Hall and the Aussies, stoking a feud that began in 2000 when Hall was writing an on-line diary for Sports Illustrated. In the diary, Hall shared his opinion on the United States' growing rivalry with the Australians:

I like Australia, in truth. I like Australians. The country is beautiful, and the people are admirable. Good humor and genuine kindness seem a predominant characteristic. My biased opinion says that we will smash them like guitars. Historically the U.S. has always risen to the occasion. But the logic in that remote area of my brain says it won't be so easy for the United States to dominate the waters this time. Whatever the results, the world will witness great swimming.

All anyone remembered, however, was the "smash them like guitars" line, which the Australians said was all the motivation they needed. After a victory over the U.S. in the 400 meter freestyle relay, the Aussies strummed air guitars on the podium to mock Hall.

Hall claimed the "guitars" comment was taken out of context, and that it was all in good fun.

Stay tuned for the next round.

About this blog
Sun reporters Kevin Van Valkenburg and Rick Maese will blog from Beijing throughout the Summer Olympics. Kevin and Rick will blog back and forth with each other as a way of letting readers in on the sights, sounds and the action in Beijing.
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