Since his Olympic triumphs in '96, Gary Hall Jr. of Phoenix, a free-spirit freestyler who has trained off and on at the Phoenix Swim Club, has endured a number of well-publicized hardships, though the one that's been least publicly explored is his post-Atlanta falling out with his maternal grandfather, Charles Keating.
Keating, remember, is the convicted and formerly imprisoned white-collar criminal who helped drag the Lincoln Savings and Loan toward financial ruin in the late 1980s. As a boy, Hall lived in Keating's mansion, traveled the world with him in his private jets and generally regarded Keating as a much-revered second father, even after his imprisonment, which Hall once termed "the greatest tragedy of my life." Still, the two of them managed to keep in touch, exchanging mail that included, just before the '96 Olympic trials, a hand-drawn good-luck card signed by Keating and fellow Tucson inmates Mister Dice, the Colombian Car, Vegas and Big Red.
At some later date, however -- no one's saying exactly when or why -- Hall and Keating experienced some off-the-record falling out. "He wanted his old grandfather back," says Gary Hall Sr., a Valley eye surgeon and a three-time Olympic swimmer himself. "Things were said that shouldn't have been said, and there's a bitterness there still, I know, that Gary [Jr.] doesn't like to talk about."
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Indeed, when asked to elaborate, Gary Jr. declines, though his fiancée, Elizabeth Peterson, who owns a Scottsdale art gallery with Hall, says, "it's very sad for Gary, you know, because what's happened is he's had and he's lost."