Host City: MontrÃ©al, Canada
Venue(s): Olympic Pool, MontrÃ©al, QuÃ©bec
Date Started: July 20, 1976
Date Finished: July 21, 1976
In the past four years, no one had approached [Mark Spitz]âs gold medal winning time of 54.27 from the 1972 Olympics, and nobody had come forward to dominate this event during the interval. With no clear favorite, people looked to East German [Roger Pyttel], silver medalist in both butterfly events at the 1975 World Championships, and in the semi-finals he posted 54.75, the second fastest time in history. The next three fastest qualifiers for the final were the American trio of [Matt Vogel] (54.80), the 1976 NCAA champion in the event, [Joe Bottom] (55.26), and [Gary Hall] (55.32). Pyttel could not match his semi-final effort and the final was all-USA, as Vogel led an American sweep in 54.35, followed by Bottom in 54.50, and Hall in 54.65, the 2-3-4 times in the event.
Gary Hall had come to MontrÃ©al, by defying the odds of trying to make an Olympic team while a medical student. He had been on the 1968 and 1972 teams and was a surprise in making the 1976 USA team. The US team members then selected him to carry the US flag at the Opening Ceremony, and his bronze medal capped his swimming career, as he related, âWhen I saw the sweep I almost came to tears.â Hall would later become an ophthalmologist and return to the Olympic pools to watch his son, [Gary Hall, Jr.], win 10 Olympic medals, including five gold.