My Life Was So Damaged That I Pawned My Olympic Gold Medal

1999 fifa women's world cup

David MadisonGetty Photos

As a bit lady, soccer star Briana Scurry dreamed of going to the Olympics. When she made the U.S. Ladies’s Nationwide Workforce alongside greats like Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain, that dream got here true. Scurry, the staff’s goalie, helped USWNT win gold on the Atlanta Video games, the primary time ladies’s soccer was ever performed within the Olympics. Scurry went on to win a second Olympic gold medal in 2004, cementing her standing as probably the greatest gamers within the historical past of the game. She was additionally the primary feminine goalie inducted into the U.S. Soccer Corridor of Fame, and stays the one Black girl.

The accolades had been nice, however ultimately the shiny veneer of Scurry’s success cracked. Her profession resulted in 2010, when she suffered a extreme head trauma. In ache and unable to work, she spiraled into debilitating melancholy and a debt so steep that she was compelled to pawn her most prized possession: her gold medals. Greater than 25 years after the Atlanta Video games, Scurry is opening up about struggling together with her identification outdoors of soccer, and studying to like herself once more. Under is an excerpt from her new e book “My Greatest Save.”

Content material warning: Point out of suicidal ideation. For those who or somebody you’re keen on is having ideas of suicide, please name the Nationwide Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK or textual content NAMI to 741741 to attach with a skilled disaster counselor.

I walked to the left, previous a parking zone and an adjoining constructing, following the sidewalk till I arrived at a safety sales space that I’d by no means seen manned. Beside the sales space was a staircase that takes you right down to the river. I descended twenty-one steps and obtained to a round plaza overlooking a waterfall. This was Little Falls, although it appeared lots massive to me, working most likely 2 hundred toes throughout. A carpet mill had been situated at this spot for greater than a century; a plaque commemorates its historical past. I walked to the railing, slowly; it was the one gear I had. I watched the relentless energy of the churning white water. Most loud noises bothered me however the fixed roar of the falls was virtually soothing. The misty coolness arising from the water tingled in opposition to my face. It was the closest I’ve ever been to a waterfall. I peered straight down into the turbulence and in that second it occurred to me that I may do away with my ache eternally in a few seconds.

It may all be gone that quick.

All I needed to do was soar over the railing.

The velocity was interesting, for certain, however for a non-swimmer, the churning water was a frightening sight. I took a step again.

Possibly I wanted to rethink this.

My Best Save


A half minute handed and I used to be simply standing there. I had a imaginative and prescient of myself in a dumpster with a gun. I didn’t even personal a gun. There are dumpsters aplenty in north Jersey. I had no thought the place this imaginative and prescient got here from. It wasn’t going away.

That’s silly, I made a decision. If I’m going to kill myself, I must do it logically, swiftly. Right here I used to be at river’s edge. I didn’t have to purchase something or go anyplace. What might be extra handy?

I studied the frosty movement of the river, dazed and conflicted. Ought to I soar? Or ought to I stroll away?

Two voices start a debate so heated it was as if I may hear them out loud. They had been virtually as clear because the voice I heard within the 1999 World Cup shootout—“That is the one.”

Voice One: You’ve by no means stop something in your life. You’re going to get the surgical procedure, and your ache can be over. Your life is so near turning round. Hold in there a bit longer. You will have a lot to dwell for.

Voice Two: Nothing ever modifications. The surgical procedure received’t occur for months, if then. Your ache is worse than ever. Your life goes nowhere. You don’t have any cash and no job prospects. When you had been a world-class athlete and now you possibly can barely make it to your mailbox. You don’t have anything to dwell for.

Forwards and backwards the voices went, at fever pitch, a tug-of-war on a rope that’s about to snap. A tabloid headline trailed by means of my mind:

Former Olympic Champion Plunges to Her Loss of life. No Foul Play Suspected.

I appeared over the railing once more. I considered my mom, signing “Hallelujah” within the kitchen in Dayton, Minnesota, and imagined what it might do to her when she heard that her child took her personal life. I circled and walked again up the twenty-one steps.

washington september 21 goalie briana scurry 1 of usa catches the ball over hanna ljungberg 10 of sweden during the fifa womens world cup match at rfk memorial stadium on september 21, 2003 in washington, dc the usa defeated sweden 3 1 photo by ben radfordgetty images

Scurry catches the ball throughout a 2003 World Cup match.

Ben Radford

athens august 26 goalkeeper briana scurry of the united states collects the ball while cristiane of brazil jumps to avoid her during the womens football gold medal match on august 26, 2004 during the athens 2004 summer olympic games at karaiskaki stadium in athens, greece photo by shaun botterillgetty images

Scurry collects the ball in the course of the 2004 Summer time Olympic Video games. 

Shaun Botterill

The months dragged on within the studio. The mail didn’t typically deliver excellent news, so I wouldn’t get it day-after-day. If my cellphone rang and it was anybody aside from Dr. Crutchfield, Ben, or Heather—or my expensive associates, Naomi and Kerri—I normally wouldn’t choose up. My world stored shrinking. The one factor I felt I may management was what I put in my physique. My mind was a prepare wreck, however I needed to ensure I ate good meals. I did a variety of juicing—the wholesome type. I’d go to the grocery store and get a wide range of vegatables and fruits—kale, pears, apples, pineapple, Swiss chard, cucumber, and anything that appeared inexperienced and good. For sixty straight days within the winter and spring of 2013, I had one meal a day, and I drank it. I felt cleansed.

For many of my grownup life I noticed day-after-day as a recent chance, one other alternative to get higher. I spent years devouring self-improvement books. Once I needed to study extra about spirituality, I learn Deepak Chopra. Once I needed to study extra about funds, I learn Suze Orman. I grew to become an ardent follower of Tony Robbins, discovering his life methods and constructive vitality uplifting. Lots of people regard self-improvement entrepreneurs as nothing greater than charlatans who get wealthy off gullible and self-delusional individuals, like me. I’ve by no means seen it that manner. Studying and rising are a few of the finest elements about being alive. I liked studying about goalkeeping from Jim Rudy. Once I began working with Dr. Hacker, our staff psychologist, I used to be excited that I may prepare my thoughts the identical manner I skilled my physique, coming to view strain not as a burden however a vital passage that finally is what creates diamonds. Even in the course of the irritating last years of my enjoying profession, I used to be fired up about pursuing what was subsequent. When it appeared as if broadcasting may be an choice, I made it some extent to find out about it. As I grew to become concerned in public talking, I studied the masters of the craft so I may get higher at it. And because the extent of my mind damage grew to become obvious to me, I learn audiobooks to attempt to get a grasp of mind science and why a tough knock to the pinnacle may have such long-lasting repercussions.

I’ve at all times believed that in case you search/ask/pray to (choose your individual verb) God or the Universe or a Larger Energy (choose your individual noun)—and also you do it with a pure coronary heart—your prayer finally can be answered. It received’t be in your time. Will probably be in Her time. However it is going to occur. It doesn’t imply that you just received’t have setbacks or laborious occasions and that your complete life can be like a day at an amusement park. It simply implies that in case you put constructive vitality on the market it is going to one way or the other, someway come again to you. It occurred for me after my profession crash-landed once I self-sabotaged the 2000 Olympics. As soon as I owned that and earnestly started to hope for a manner ahead inside two years I used to be on the pinnacle of my sport. Earlier than I met Naomi, I had a sequence of relationships that weren’t particularly fulfilling or wholesome, as a lot due to what I used to be bringing to it as something my companion was. Once I consciously, prayerfully sought out one thing richer, taking a tough have a look at myself and what I wanted to work on, all the pieces modified.

Naomi and I had six fantastic years collectively, and to this present day she is an angel in my life.

By the winter of 2013, although, my storehouse of constructive vitality was decrease than my checking account stability. I couldn’t summon any as a result of I didn’t bear in mind the best way to. Greater than two and a half years of ache and insurance-company roadblocks had overwhelmed the life out of me. Melancholy hit me like a runaway truck on the Jersey Turnpike. My lawyer’s workplace referred to as and stated I needed to are available in for an additional listening to as a result of the corporate submitted one other objection to my getting surgical procedure from Dr. Crutchfield.

They’re breaking me, I assumed. They’re going to get what they need. They’re going to get me to surrender. I went throughout the road to Little Falls Low cost Liquors and bought my vodka. I may solely afford a pint. Later that evening, as I sipped my drink, I made a decision it was time to achieve out to Borro.

I had an Olympic gold medal they may be fascinated with.

pasadena, us goalkeeper briana scurry l lunges as she stops the penalty kick by liu ying of the chinese soccer team in a shoot out at the end of their game in the finals of the womens world cup at the rose bowl in pasadena, california 10 july 1999 the us team scored all of their five penalty shots to win the game electronic image afp photohector mata photo credit should read hector mataafp via getty images

Scurry lunges to cease a penalty kick in a shoot-out on the finish of a sport within the finals of the 1999 Ladies’s World Cup. USWNT scored all of their 5 penalty photographs to win the sport.


Earlier than I may meet with the individuals at Borro, I had a visit to make. My gold medals had been at my mother’s home, in a cedar chest in her bed room. Certainly one of my sisters helped me out with the aircraft fare. My mother had been affected by Alzheimer’s for a few years, and her illness was entering into the late phases. I wasn’t certain if she would acknowledge me and know my title, however she did.

“Boob,” she exclaimed. It was what she referred to as me my complete life—a shortened type of Boo, as a result of I appreciated to observe Yogi Bear and Boo cartoons as a child.

“Meresie!” I exclaimed again.

She requested me concerning the USWNT—her mind was nonetheless caught in that period—and inquired about my teammates, particularly Mia and Lil.

“When’s your subsequent sport? Who’re you enjoying?” she requested.

I defined that I wasn’t on the staff anymore and that I had retired. I stated nothing about my mind damage.

A minute or two later, she checked out me and stated, “When’s your subsequent sport? Who’re you enjoying? Did I already ask you that?”

My mother requested me the identical issues a half-dozen occasions over a one-hour go to. Every time, she requested me if she’d requested that earlier than. As unhappy because it was to see the illness overtaking her, her similar sweetness nonetheless shined by means of. Her mind could not have been working, however her coronary heart was as enormous as ever. She seen I wasn’t sporting socks.

“Are your toes chilly? I can provide you some socks. I’ve a blanket we are able to put over them.”

“No, no, thanks. My toes are tremendous.” Her toes should’ve been chilly, as a result of she stored asking me about mine.

Close to the top of our go to, I requested her if she minded if I took the gold medals with me.

She remembered she had them. I informed her I wanted them for some appearances I used to be making.

“You are taking them in case you want them,” my mother stated. “You received them, in any case.”

washington dc october 18
briana scurry is moved toward the operating room at medstar georgetown university hospital in washington, dc on october 18, 2013 briana received an occipital nerve release, the surgery will help relieve the chronic headaches shes lived with for three years due to a concussion in 2010
we profile olympic and world cup champion briana scurry, whos career ended due to head injuries photo by marvin josephthe washington post via getty images

Scurry within the working room after present process surgical procedure to assist relieve persistent complications she lived with after a extreme head damage.

The Washington Publish

I gave her a protracted, goodbye hug and flew house that evening. Thirty-six hours later it was Borro Day, March 13, 2013, a Wednesday. I had already postponed it as soon as as a result of I didn’t have the funds for for gasoline. I awakened feeling dread. I needed no a part of doing this however knew I had no alternative. I showered and dressed, drank my smoothie, and obtained in my Jeep. It was a dreary, wet day. On the passenger seat, inside a small picket field, was my 1996 gold medal. (I used to be taking it one medal at a time and this was the extra beneficial one.) I obtained on Interstate 80 heading east, towards the George Washington Bridge, for the twenty 5 mile journey to New York Metropolis. I handed exits for Paterson and Hackensack and different locations I knew nothing about. Every little thing appeared grey and grim. At virtually each exit, I thought of pulling off and turning round and going again to my jail. However I stored going. I talked out loud, to myself.

“That is going to be a superb factor. It is going to give me room to breathe,” I stated. I felt as if I wasn’t even Briana Scurry, or in my very own physique. I didn’t know who I used to be. I paid a 13 greenback toll that I couldn’t afford, crossed the bridge, and headed down the West Facet Freeway in Manhattan. I handed the well-known plane service, the Intrepid.

I’d by no means felt much less intrepid in my life.

I obtained off the freeway at Forty Second Avenue and drove throughout city. Borro was in a constructing close to Bryant Park within the coronary heart of Midtown. I parked in a storage. The battle inside continued to rage. I thought of pulling proper again out of the storage and driving house.

“That is going to be a superb factor,” I informed myself once more.

I entered the constructing and pressed the elevator button for the twenty first ground. I walked as much as the door. It was my final probability to show round.

I walked in.

The receptionist greeted me warmly.

“Hello, I’m Briana Scurry. I’ve a one o’clock appointment.”

“Hello, Ms. Scurry. Sure, someone can be proper with you. Please have a seat.”

The workplace was properly appointed and comfy. Two mortgage advisors got here out—a younger girl and a British man. Each had been cordial and well-mannered. We sat down in a convention room. They supplied me a bottle of water. I took the gold medal out of my backpack and put it on the desk. I informed them the 1996 Video games had been the centennial of the trendy Olympics and the primary time that ladies’s soccer had been a medal sport. I used to be making an attempt laborious to carry it collectively. I may inform they had been intrigued by it.

“We’ve by no means had an Olympic gold medal earlier than,” the British fellow stated, opening the field. He picked it up.

“Wow, it’s heavy,” he stated.

I informed them I needed to make use of the mortgage cash to begin a enterprise. I used to be too ashamed to inform them the reality. They defined the method to me—that they needed to authenticate the medal after which appraise it, and that it might take forty-five minutes to an hour.

“That’s tremendous,” I stated.

They returned forward of schedule and informed me that all the pieces checked out and went over the small print. In change for my collateral—the gold medal—they might give me a test for $5,000. I might pay them $199 month-to-month for so long as the mortgage was excellent. Once I needed to get the medal again, I must repay the principal plus charges.

My head was spinning. I requested a few questions concerning the compensation process. I signed all of the paperwork. They informed me that $5,000 can be wired to me in just a few days. My Olympic gold medal was nonetheless within the picket field on the desk in entrance of me. It was the medal I began dreaming about once I was eight years outdated, watching the U.S. Olympic hockey staff beat the Soviets in Lake Placid over thirty years earlier than. It didn’t belong to me anymore, a minimum of for now. We shook fingers and stated goodbye. I walked out the door of Borro, the chief in confidential, non-bank loans. I had to take a look at the parking stub to recollect the place the storage was. Again within the automobile, the passenger seat was empty. There was no extra holding it collectively. I held on to the steering wheel and sat in my automobile and cried.

michael rondou photo the entire team leaps for joy on podium after being awarded gold medal by defeating china in world cup final center is goalie briana scurry photo by medianews groupthe mercury news via getty images

The USWNT after defeating China within the 1999 World Cup last.

MediaNews Group/The Mercury Information through Getty Photos

I’d hoped—maybe naïvely—that having monetary respiration room can be a panacea. It was something however. It was a reduction to know I may cowl the fundamentals for some time, however the realization that my life was so damaged that I pawned my proudest possession took a heavy emotional toll. I thought of that gold medal on a regular basis. I did what I wanted to do, however I nonetheless was sick over it. The stress made my complications worse and my melancholy deeper. Melancholy is an odd illness. It has its personal ebb and movement, but it surely’s not predictable, just like the tides. Some days I might get up and really feel a glimmer of hope, and my outdated upbeat worldview. Different occasions the gloom hung so closely over me I used to be certain it might by no means carry. I may by no means pinpoint what precipitated the melancholy to lighten, or what made it hit me like a tsunami. The worst wave of it I’d ever expertise got here late one morning, just a few weeks after I’d gotten the cash from Borro. I had gotten up late. I felt untethered from all the pieces on earth, as if I had been only a random mass of cells. I went outdoors and turned left. The solar shined, and the air was crisp and candy with the smells of blooming and spring. The aching at the back of my head had abated for some cause.

It’s a superb day to die, I assumed.

I by no means anticipated to be again in such a darkish, despairing place, however right here I used to be, strolling again down the twenty-one steps to the plaza, previous the marker for the outdated carpet mill. I used to be on the railing now once more. The river was swollen from just a few current days of rain, the water falling laborious into foamy dashing rapids. I put my palms on the railing. Leaping was one thing I had at all times been good at. I leaned ahead and put my weight on my fingers and tensed my higher physique, after which, identical to the final time, the stunning, gentle brown face of Robbie Scurry got here earlier than my eyes, and I may hear her say, “Boob, aren’t your toes chilly?” My toes are tremendous, thanks, Meresie, I assumed.

I needed in that second I may thank her for all her love for all these years. I began to cry, tears spilling over the railing. I circled and headed in direction of the steps. I by no means contemplated suicide once more.

Excerpt from the brand new e book My Best Save by Briana Scurry with Wayne Coffey printed by Abrams Press Textual content copyright © 2022 Briana Scurry.


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