ATHENS, Greece -- After surviving cancer and then dealing
with its frustrating aftermath, Kevin Hall finally knows what it's
like to be an Olympian.
"I feel lucky to be here,'' the burly American sailor said
after finishing tied for seventh in the Finn fleet after the
opening two races on Saturday.
Considering what's happened to Hall during the last 14 years,
that's not a bad place to be.
Hall, who grew up in Ventura, Calif., and now lives in Bowie,
Md., has fought cancer twice, navigated through some serious red
tape and needed four tries before qualifying for the Olympics.
To sail in the games, he needed clearance because of his
required weekly testosterone injections.
And to think that he might have finished in the top five of the
opening race Saturday if not for the whims of the breeze on the
scorching hot Saronic Gulf.
"I just wish I had slightly more luck out on the water,'' Hall
said in a statement released by U.S. Sailing. "I'm looking forward
to the rest of the regatta.''
Hall has declined to speak with reporters for the last few days,
apparently hoping not to get distracted because of the attention
he has received. During the 1996 U.S. Olympic trials, he admittedly
let his medical condition bother him and finished fifth.
Hall's testicles were removed during his three-year fight with
cancer from 1990-93. He needs weekly injections of testosterone, a
performance-enhancing steroid banned by the IOC.
Hall dominated the winner-take-all U.S. Olympic trials in
February, then faced a frustrating five months of red tape as he
sought a therapeutic use exemption for his testosterone use. The
IOC, the International Sailing Federation, the World Anti-Doping
Agency and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency were all involved at one
time or another as Hall pleaded his case.
He knew his case had to make its way through multi
bureaucracies, but he also just wanted to be assured as quickly as
possible that he'd be able to make his Olympic debut after all
these years. Clearance came July 7.
The America's Cup veteran has been sailing the Finn fulltime for
more than a year.
Hall had finishes of 11th and sixth in the opening two races and
was tied on points for seventh with Ali Enver Adakan of Turkey,
although Adakan had a second-place finish in the first race. Hall
was nine points out of third place. There are nine races left.
Hall and Adakan both moved up a spot after Great Britain's Ben
Ainslie, the favorite for the gold medal, was disqualified from his
second-place finish in the second race on protest. An international
jury determined that Ainslie violated sailing's basic right-of-way
rule, crossing too close in front of the French boat while it was
on starboard tack.
Ainslie, who won the Laser class gold medal in 2000 and the
silver in 1996, dropped from fourth overall to 19th.
Two other U.S. crews got off to good starts.
Paul Foerster of Rockwall, Texas, and Kevin Burnham of Miami
were third overall in the 470 class after winning the opening race
and taking eighth in the second race.
Skipper Carol Cronin of Jamestown, R.I., was fifth overall in
the Yngling class, which made its Olympic debut. Cronin and her
crew, Nancy Haberland of Annapolis, Md., and Liz Filter of
Stevensville, Md., had an impressive second in the opening race but
then got in trouble at the start of the second race and had to
rally from last to finish 10th.
Cronin, Haberland and Filter are in their first Olympics.
The U.S. women's 470 crew of Katie McDowell of Barrington, R.I.,
and Isabelle Kinsolving of New York, were 13th in their 20-boat
fleet after finishes of 12th and 16th. They moved up two spots due
to unrelated protests.