June 10, 2009, 7:10 p.m. (ET)

At each Olympic Games - winter and summer - each country's team is preceded into the Olympic stadium by an athlete or delegation representative bearing the country's flag. The flagbearer for the U.S. Olympic Team is typically chosen by the fellow athletes or respective team captains and is considered to be a great honor. With Flag Day approaching on June 14th, we bring you a series of stories focusing on several U.S. Olympic Flag Bearers over the years. 

Gary Hall Sr. held world records and won Olympic medals. If you ask him about his great honor as a swimmer though, he won't tell you about a time in the pool.

At the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games, Hall's teammates voted him to be the flag bearer who led the U.S. Olympic Team into Olympic Stadium for the Opening Ceremonies.

Almost 33 years later, Hall said the honor is still hard to describe.

"It was an incredible honor," said Hall, who was taking a break from his busy life of running his own swim camps and business. "What makes it special is that I was picked by my peers-the elite of the elite of athleticism. To be included in the group of the cast of all-stars that were nominated is very humbling."

Hall, now 57, remains the only swimmer to carry the flag at the Opening Ceremonies.

The Montreal Olympics was Hall's third and final Olympic appearance. He also competed in Mexico City in 1968 and Munich in 1972. He won silver in the 400 medley in 1968 and the 200 butterfly in 1972. In Montreal he won the bronze in an American sweep of the 100 butterfly.

Over the course of his career, Hall held 10 world records, won 30 U.S. titles and was the first swimmer under four minutes for the 400 individual medley. He dominated the IM for a decade and was the World Swimmer of the Year in 1969 and 1970.

Yet it was the honor of the carrying the flag that he calls his greatest athletic achievement.

"It was electrifying," he said. "I had goose bumps the whole way."

Hall said the buildup to entering the stadium was incredible-walking from about a half-mile away and watching the crowds swell as they got nearer the stadium.

"Then you get into the tunnel [and] it's the calm before the storm," Hall said. "You see the light of day and suddenly 80,000 people are staring at you. It was a very special moment and you show the flag and hear this deafening roar. It's just amazing."

Hall took a year off from medical school at the University of Cincinnati, starting in January 1976, to train for the Olympic Games. He went on to become an ophthalmologist in the Phoenix area and has since moved to South Florida to be closer to his three children and two grandchildren.

One of his children, Gary Hall Jr., went to three Olympic Games-making the Halls the only father-son tandem to each compete in three Olympics-and won 10 Olympic medals. They co-own The Race Club, a camp and clinic for stroke technique with swimmers coming to them for anywhere from a day to week.

Together We Win!

The elder Gary Hall said he started teaching a year ago and loves it.

"It makes me think a lot about swimming, and, in a lot of respects, it has made me a better swimmer," he said.

He isn't out of the eye business either: Another of his business efforts is Frubi Shades, a line of protective sunglasses for toddlers.

But as an athlete, answering the question of what was his greatest accomplishment still is not hard for him to see.

"I don't even bat an eye," Hall said. "Carrying the flag was the greatest honor I could receive."

Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc. Lonny Goldsmith is a freelance contributor for teamusa.org. This story was not subject to the approval of the United States Olympic Committee or any National Governing Bodies.