Tasha Schwikert was sleeping; Elise Ray, Kristen Maloney and Amy Chow were at work; and Dominique Dawes had just missed a flight and was stuck in an airport when their cell phones started ringing and emails started flying.
“I was in complete shock,” Ray said. “We had gotten wind of it a few month before, that there was an investigation, but I put it out of my head. When I heard the news, I couldn’t believe it. I was so happy. I never in a million years thought I’d be getting a medal.”
The news was big: The U.S. Olympic Women’s Gymnastics Team had been awarded the bronze medal – from the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. When it was discovered that one of China’s athletes was age-ineligible for the 2000 Olympics, the Chinese team had to relinquish its team bronze, moving the Americans onto the podium – 10 years later. On August 11, the team received their medal at ceremony during the Visa Championships in Hartford, Conn.
“It like was a breath of fresh air that day,” Dawes said. “I’m pleased that the International Olympic Committee stayed up on this with due diligence. They gathered the facts and justice prevailed.”
In the years since Sydney, the gymnasts have completed their competitive careers and have taken different routes in their lives.
- Alyssa Beckerman finished college and sings in a band while preparing to go to graduate school.
- Amy Chow went to medical school, just finished her residency in pediatrics and recently got married.
- Jamie Dantzscher graduated from UCLA and is now coaching.
- Dominique Dawes continued her work as a motivational speaker, covered the 2008 and 2010 Olympics for Yahoo Sports and now
- co-chairs the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.
- Kristen Maloney taught pre-school in New York City, toured with Cirque du Soleil and wants to coach at the collegiate level.
- After graduating from Michigan, Elise Ray also performed in Cirque du Soleil; she’s now coaching, personal training and working for the Big Ten network.
- Tasha Schwikert stayed on the international scene before also going to college; she now works on the ABC show “Make it or Break It” as a stunt double and has done commentary for Universal Sports.
- Morgan White stayed involved with the sport, working with young gymnasts in USA Gymnastics’ grassroots development program; she’s now in school studying psychology.
“I was surprised,” Maloney, who was teaching pre-school when she heard the news, said. “It took a while to sink in.”
Though some of them have seen each other throughout the years – at college meets or summer camps – receiving their medals in Hartford will be the first time they’ve been in the same room since Sydney.
When the U.S. Team made its way through the halls underneath the Sydney SuperDome 10 years ago, some of them caught a glimpse of something shiny, flashing under the lights. They didn’t get a good look at it, but they didn’t need to. They knew exactly what it was.
Now they have their own.
“Everyone grows up and goes on their own separate life paths,” Schwikert said. "The medal is a great way to get everyone back together.”
Photo by John Cheng