Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Patriotic Work like Some of America's Top Olympians in Sydney, Missy Fiesler Knows What Being a World Champ Means

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Patriotic Work like Some of America's Top Olympians in Sydney, Missy Fiesler Knows What Being a World Champ Means

Article excerpt

Missy Fiesler exhausted every muscle to lead the U.S. Junior National women's fours boat halfway through a grueling 2,000-meter race. Her pride wouldn't let her quit.

As lead stroker, the Stanton Preparatory School senior willed her four teammates to victory -- for herself, her team and her country at the 2000 FISA World Junior and Non-Olympic Senior World Rowing Championships.

Moments later, she and her U.S. teammates bowed their heads as gold medals were slipped around their necks. Then, they stood proudly as the American flag was raised and the national anthem filled the August morning air in Zagreb, Croatia.

"They played the Star Spangled Banner, and we were all crying and trying to sing it," the 17-year-old Fiesler said. "It was the most amazing thing I've ever experienced in my life. We were like, 'Whoa. This is so cool."

The U.S. Junior National women's team had never been world champion, and Fiesler had won two national championships and five national titles with her high school crew. For the past seven days, she watched the U.S. men's and women's rowing team compete in all 14 classes at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, through NBC's delayed television coverage. Fiesler, who hopes to compete at the Olympics in 2008, relives her gold-catching moment every time she views a victorious American's medal ceremony in Sydney.

Nothing quite compares to standing on the medal stand in a foreign country.

Olympic gold medalist Catie Ball-Condon knows. The 1969 Lee High School graduate mounted the stand with "tears of joy" as a member of the U.S. women's swim team's first-place 400-meter relay at the '68 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.

"First of all, it made you very proud to be an American," Ball-Condon said. "And then, just a great feeling of pride to have represented your country and done well. It's kind of overwhelming."

It didn't matter to former Bolles swimmer Trina Jackson that she was only 300 miles away from home when she received a gold medal for winning the 800-meter freestyle at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

"I got to represent my country. That's why it was so special," Jackson said. "Looking up in the stands and seeing my parents, and getting to meet the president, I got to realize I actually did something for the United States."

Fiesler came to that realization long before her medal was assured. The United States led halfway through the world-championship race, but the ladies were tired and had another 800 or so meters to go. Then, the coxswain, who sat facing Fiesler and the crew, yelled out, "Do it for your country." They did, crossing the finish line in 6:46.07 -- 3.83 seconds ahead of Australia -- for the team's first gold medal.

"When she said that, it just made me think I was pulling for my country," Fiesler said. …

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