Swimmer Gary Hall Sr. Recalls His 'Greatest Honor' at the Olympics and Making History with His Son (Exclusive)

With the 2024 Paris Games approaching, Gary Hall Sr. tells PEOPLE about his favorite memories from the Olympics

<p>Al Bello/Getty</p> Gary Hall Jr. (left) and Gary Hall Sr. in 2004

Al Bello/Getty

Gary Hall Jr. (left) and Gary Hall Sr. in 2004

With both Father’s Day and the 2024 Paris Olympic Games on the horizon, swimmer Gary Hall Sr. is remembering the special significance of both.

The North Carolina-born swimmer, 72, has made history in plenty of ways, including earning 30 U.S. national titles, 10 world records and three Olympic medals. But best of all is that he and the eldest of his six children, Gary Hall Jr., 49, became the first father-and-son duo to both make three appearances at the Olympics.

“That record still stands. It's one I'm proud of,” he tells PEOPLE of the distinction.

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Walking down Olympics memory lane, the athlete, who took the 1968, ’72 and ’76 Olympic Games by storm, winning two silver medals and a bronze medal, recalls the life-changing meet in 1972 that qualified him for the Munich, Germany Games.

“I made it, and Gary Jr. was 2 at the time,” he remembers. “I picked him up and I held him up standing in the shallow end of the pool. That was a glorious moment.”

<p>Courtesy Hall Family</p> Gary Hall Sr. holds son Gary Hall Jr. in 1976

Courtesy Hall Family

Gary Hall Sr. holds son Gary Hall Jr. in 1976

Two decades later, Gary Hall Jr. would go on to win 10 medals, five of them gold, in the 1996, 2000 and ’04 Games. “He surpassed my ability by a long shot,” says the proud father. "He made it three times and had an exceptional career."

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Today, Gary Hall Sr. resides in California with his wife Mary and enjoys spending time with their six kids and 10 grandchildren. He and his son, Richard, run The Race Club, which was founded by Gary Hall Jr. over 20 years ago and provides camps, coaching and other programs for swimmers at all levels around the world. Gary Hall Sr., who is also the author of the 2020 book Fundamentals of Fast Swimming, says The Race Club has now coached more than 50 Olympians.

<p>Courtesy Hall Family</p> Gary Hall Sr.

Courtesy Hall Family

Gary Hall Sr.

"We take a very customized approach to each swimmer," he says. "You have to understand the person, their abilities and their goals. Then you have to come up with a plan."

When it comes to his own children, there's one piece of advice he always gave them. "For all my kids, I told them before every race, 'Just have fun.' That's it, 'have fun.' And when they did that, they'd swim fast."

As for his own favorite memory at the Olympics, Gary Hall Sr. doesn’t hesitate: “That one's easy. I was selected in 1976 to carry the US flag for the Opening Ceremonies.”

He adds that he’ll never forget carrying the flag for his country at the Montreal, Canada Games. “That was, by far the greatest honor I ever got in athletics — and I won some Olympic medals.”

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As for Father's Day, he plans to spend the day by the pool with his family.

“I think we have a little bit of swimming in our genetic line or something,” he quips of his family.  “We're going to probably go swimming. Can you believe that?”

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