U.P.’s Swim Teal Lake Event Welcomes Champion Swimmer

Since his diagnosis in 1999, Gary Hall Jr. has set a high standard for how to successfully live with type 1 diabetes.

“Diabetes should not stand between a person and their dreams, or a healthy and fulfilling life,” he said.

Gary Hall Jr.

It certainly didn’t stop the decorated swimmer. Prior to his diagnosis, he’d earned four medals at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and was gearing up for his second competition on the world’s stage. The 24-year-old was one of the best and fastest swimmers in the world. He was in incredible shape and had no family history of diabetes in his family.

Symptoms of excessive thirst, frequent urination, blurred vision and irritability all culminated with his collapse and subsequent diagnosis.

With hard work, medication and some major lifestyle changes, Hall went on to claim more hardware at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 – individual gold in the 50-meter freestyle; an individual bronze in the 100-meter freestyle; gold in the 400-meter medley relay; and silver in the 400-meter freestyle relay. He also swam in the 2004 Olympics in Athens and finished his medal haul with individual gold in the 50-meter freestyle and bronze in the 400-meter freestyle relay.

Hall will share his inspirational story as this year’s special guest speaker at the 14th annual Swim Teal Lake Benefit for Diabetes, which will be held Saturday, July 29 in Negaunee. Along with the traditional 2.25-mile swim across Teal Lake, a quarter-mile “Short-n-Sweet” swim has been added for swimmers of all ages.

Since it began, the event has raised more than $120,000. Donations are used by the Upper Peninsula Diabetes Outreach Network (UPDON) to strengthen diabetes care and support across the U.P.

Since retiring from competitive swimming, Hall has been an advocate and spokesperson for people living with diabetes. He encourages others to add their voice to bring awareness to the disease.

“We need advocates in front of our elected officials, health insurance, pharmaceutical and medical device companies,” he said. “The HIV/AIDS community should be a role model in terms of demonstrating what effective advocacy looks like.”

To Hall, that includes not accepting rollbacks to insurance requirements to cover pre-existing conditions.

“The terrifying prospect of losing health insurance because of a pre-existing condition like Type 1 diabetes is real. In 2000 and 2004 I was healthy enough to win an individual gold medal at the Olympics, being the fastest swimmer in the world, and I wasn’t healthy enough to purchase health insurance,” he said. “The costs of managing diabetes are out of control. As patients, we need to organize and mobilize to address these very real concerns.”

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is a sponsor of Swim Teal Lake. Find more details here.

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Photos courtesy of UPDON

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