Kevin Hall has done everything in his power to be an Olympian.
The 34-year-old sailor from Bowie dominated the Finn class competition atthe team trials in Florida in February. He and his wife have "burnt throughour savings and run up as much debt as we could afford" to get him trained andequipped. He's in Europe now competing against the men he expects to face atthe Summer Games.
But several times a month, Hall, a survivor of testicular cancer, doessomething the International Olympic Committee has, so far, deemedunacceptable: He injects himself with testosterone.
Now, he says, he needs the IOC "to do right by me" and declare him eligibleto compete in Athens.
Hall has gotten the approval of the International Sailing Federation tocompete in its events. The U.S. Olympic Committee also approved him forcompetition. But the IOC, which considers testosterone a performance-enhancingsubstance, has not yet made an exception for his medical situation.
It is a distraction a world-class athlete doesn't need in the monthsleading up to the six days of competition that begin Aug. 14.
"I just have to deal with it," says Hall, a solidly built 6-footer with redhair who grew up in California. "Now, it's a matter of the right personlifting the right rubber stamp at the right time."
Hall says regular blood tests indicate he's within the normal parametersfor the hormone that keeps bones and muscles strong and his mental health onan even keel.
"I have the same testosterone levels as the other competitors," he says."Instead of it coming naturally, it's a needle. It isn't something I want todo. It's something I have to do."
As a student at Brown University in Providence, R.I., Hall was a three-timeAll-American. In his senior year in 1990, he was diagnosed with cancer and hadsurgery to remove a testicle.
In a remarkable show of strength, he was back sailing competitively for theintercollegiate national title less than a month after surgery. He finishedsecond in the Laser class, a 14-foot dinghy sailed solo. Hall graduated in1991 with honors with degrees in mathematics and French literature.
In 1991, he won his first North American championship. In December 1992, hehad a checkup while preparing for the world championship and learned thecancer was back.
During the next two months, he had first his lymph nodes removed and thenthe other testicle. Testosterone therapy was prescribed to replace thesubstance his body no longer produced.
Nursing his health, Hall didn't race from January 1993 until March 1995.
In 1996, while he was trying to make the Olympics as a sailor in the Laserclass, he went public with his story in an attempt to get a waiver from theUSOC. The distraction affected his performance, he says, and he finished fifthin the team trials.
"I think there were people who wanted me to lose so that the problem wouldgo away," he says.
In 2000, Hall and Morgan Larson competed in the two-man 49er trials andfinished second, again pushing off the need for IOC officials to rule on hiscase.
This year, they have no choice.
"It's not as if I'm surprising them with this condition," Hall says. "Thedifference is I'm on the Olympic team now and I'm fairly optimistic that willmake the difference."
Hall hasn't spent much time at home. The few days he gets between regattasare spent raising money and working out at a local gym with his wife, Amanda,a medical resident in the shock trauma unit at University of Maryland Hospitalin Baltimore.
That Hall is doing so well in the Finn class is somewhat surprising. Heonly began training last October after deciding to forgo another campaign inthe two-man Star class.
He credits his progress to two things: focused practice on the water andbuilding his experience sailing downwind, the "power" part of a race when acompetitor can cut the distance to the leaders or pull away from the pack.
Hall practiced his downwind technique sailing the 30 miles between Miamiand Fort Lauderdale, choosing his route based on the direction of the wind. Heestimates he made the trip nearly a dozen times.
"It was the kind of focused, quality experience you just can't get duringracing," he says. "If I keep learning at the rate I've been learning, I have ashot at a medal."
Slalom team set
The U.S. canoe and kayak slalom team went to the first World Cup event ofthe season in Athens last weekend assured of only two places for the Olympics,but came away with six spots.
Maryland residents Scott Parsons and Brett Heyl will represent the UnitedStates for the first time in the men's kayak event (K-1). In the 10-man field,Parsons finished fifth and Heyl finished eighth.
Joe Jacobi, a Bethesda native and the 1992 gold medalist, and 2000 OlympianMatt Taylor of Atlanta backed into qualifying for the two-man canoe (C-2)because of the showing of teammates Jeff Larimer and Frank Babcock.
Larimer and Babcock finished in 18th place, which gave the United States asecond slot in the C-2. Jacobi and Taylor finished 27th.
Rounding out the U.S. squad are 2002 world champion kayaker Rebecca Giddensof San Diego, who will return to the Olympics for the second time by virtue ofher sixth-place finish, and men's single canoeist Chris Ennis of NorthCarolina, who finished 14th to secure his first Olympic berth.
U.S. slalom coach Brian Parsons had said before the competition that teamofficials wanted to secure five slots: two spots each in men's and women'skayaking and one position for a two-man canoe.
The configuration came out a little differently, but in the end they had anet gain of one.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun