Swimmer Gary Hall Sr. was the Team USA flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony of the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games, where he won a medal for the third consecutive Olympic Games. It was at Montreal 1976 that John Naber made his mark in the pool, winning four gold medals and one silver.
The two swimmers have been good friends ever since and both have served in the U.S. Olympians & Paralympians Association. They came together for a discussion that on all aspects of becoming an Olympian and competing in the Games, including an important decision for swimmers: Whether to march in the Opening Ceremony, with many in competition the following day.
Hall said that he marched in the Opening Ceremony at Mexico City 1968 and at Munich 1972, where he swam the following day. Hall won the silver medal in the 400-meter individual medley at Mexico City 1968, silver in the 200 butterfly at Munich 1972 and bronze in the 100 butterfly at Montreal 1976.
“I wasn’t going to give up that honor to go in there,” Hall said, noting that coaches gave swimmers the option to watch the Opening Ceremony on television.
Selected by the captains of each U.S. team to carry the flag at Montreal 1976, Hall felt tremendous honor – and also tremendous nerves as he emerged from the tunnel to lead the Team USA delegation into Olympic Stadium.
“The roar was deafening. Everybody came to their feet,” Hall said. “My whole body started to tremble. I was so afraid I was going to drop the flag. I was literally trembling holding onto this thing. … You look up and it’s overwhelming – the sound, the reception, the warmth.”