around her eyes and the “USA” painted on her left cheek.
Gale, energetic and exuberant, dyed her hair to complete a promise she made “as an offhand remark” that if she made the team, she’d express her patriotism right down to her follicles.
Both the American men’s and women’s teams were strong, so just making each was an accomplishment. Gale said her “biggest competitors were my teammates,” especially Parsley, who led by .01 seconds after the first run and jumped into first again after her second run, just before Gale went. But Gale responded with the ride of her life to earn gold, causing even her good friend Parsley to rush out in celebration.
For Gale, nothing could have been sweeter. Park City was her home course, having lived in Salt Lake City since age 9, and the Winter Games were a special experience — andan experience she plans to revisit at next month’s 10thanniversary.
“I was there for the bid and watching all the construction,” she recalled. “The Olympics was a full experience for me and my family. My mom was assistant director to the Olympic Village, my dad was the first official I see when I cross the finish line. We were a very Olympic family, very involved.”
Aunts, uncles, cousins all volunteered or worked in some capacity for the Games.
“Everyone had their own piece of it and that made it special,” she said.
And when she raced, not only was her family there, butalso former Girl Scout troop members and Home Depot co-workers.
It made winning the medal so much sweeter. Which is why she felt so distraught about a year ago when the medal was stolen from her home in Oceanside. Thanks to an alert neighbor and a dogged detective, however, the medal —taken by a four-person gang that was involved in a string of burglaries — was recovered within days.
Because Tristan and Jon were packing for their move to Tahoe, the medal had been just sitting in a box on the counter. Now, she says, it’s in a safe place.
Though she lived in a big community, she said the loss of the medal seemed to mobilize the San Diego area in support. Almost 10 years after winning the medal, she could still see the Olympic impact on Americans.
“People don’t see a medal as just mine,” she said. “It doesn’t just belong to Tristan, it belongs to the country, so when somebody takes something like that, everyone sees it as a fault against the country. It gets people really worked up. I got so many emails and letters.”