Stolen Olympic medals

Tristan Gale won her gold medal in Salt Lake City in skeleton racing in 2002.

Merrrill Moses won his silver medal in water polo at Beijing in 2008.

Both have had their Olympic medals stolen, Tristan’s just Wednesday, Merrill’s late last month.

What are the odds?

Beyond which — Tristan Gale Geisler, as she is now known, and Merrill Moses are two of the most upstanding and fundamentally decent people you would ever meet.

You know that saying — when bad things happen to good people?

Hopefully this story produces a follow-up — when good things happen to good people because the cops catch the morons and then the morons go to prison for a good long time.

2002 Olympic skeleton gold medalist Tristan Gale Geisler // photo courtesy Tristan Gale Geisler, Brant Feldman

It’s certainly one thing to steal. It’s another to be so stupid that you steal an Olympic medal. Like, where are you going to fence that?

In the case of Tristan’s medal, just to make the situation that much more galling:

The fool, or fools, stole from the house of an Olympic medalist and her U.S. Marine helicopter pilot husband, Capt. Jon Geisler, recently back from deployment in Afghanistan.

They live in Oceanside, Calif., just north of San Diego.

They went out for a noon stroll with their dog, a chocolate lab, Cody. It was while they were out with the dog — for all of 40 minutes — that their house, near the beach, was hit.

Tristan, as anyone who knows her can attest, is not the sort to keep her medal locked up in a safe-deposit box. When she raced in Salt Lake, she had dyed her hair red, white and blue. She loves to study art. She gets all gooey when she tells the story of how she and Jon met. She works in a beachfront coffee shop. She just liked to share the medal with anyone and everyone — kids, friends, groups, whoever.

That’s why she typically kept it in a sock in the junk drawer in their kitchen. “Where it had been just fine,” she said.

They were getting ready to move to a different house, though, and he had put it in a nice case for packing. And there it sat. You couldn’t miss it.

Stolen, along with the medal, were her Olympic ring, diamond engagement ring, computers and some other stuff. The Wii got taken but not the Wii Fit. Go figure.

U.S. Marine Capt. Jon Geisler and Tristan Gale Geisler // photo courtesy Jon Geisler

“I was in Afghanistan all summer long,” Jon Geisler said. “It was a busy summer. I watched our young Americans fighting hard for our country and sacrificing for our country. And now I believe you have young individuals of about the same age doing this — it’s very frustrating.”

He said a moment later,  “My wife’s work — her medal. It breaks my heart,” adding, “It breaks my heart for the people of Utah,” where both he and she grew up.

“I hope that the [Oceanside] police have some kind of leads better than what our detectives have,” Merrill said late Thursday by phone from Italy, where he’s playing water polo.

“Unfortunately, our detectives,” in Manteca, Calif., about 75 miles east of San Francisco, where his parents now live, “believe they know who it is. But they have no proof.”

The Moses home in Manteca was virtually cleaned out on Dec. 28. Merrill had just proposed two days before to his girlfriend, Laura Bailey. He had flown his parents, and her parents, to Jamaica for the celebration. It was glorious. Everyone was happy.

Then again, the Moses home back in California was empty. Which, apparently, someone knew. Because the house was virtually cleaned out of everything of value.

The day they met - Merrill Moses and his now-fiancee, Laura Bailey // photo courtesy Merrill Moses

“My parents are devastated,” he said. “I’m devastated.”

 

The story of the American team that won that medal in 2008 is nothing short of incredible. In 2007, they were what new coach Terry Schroeder called a “dysfunctional family.”  They came together in 2008 to upset Serbia in the Olympic semifinals and, with Moses in goal, win — not settle for — silver. Moses was named to the 2008 all-tournament team.

Moses, meanwhile, is a former college walk-on. He didn’t make the 2004 Olympic team; he was that team’s final cut. That silver 2008 medal came to symbolize, well, everything about his Olympic journey, and — much like Tristan — he loved to take it out and show it around, in particular to kids and to school groups.

The crew at Servite High School in Anaheim, Calif., with Merrill Moses' silver medal // photo courtesy Merrill Moses

Indeed, that’s how he met Laura, at a clinic at Capistrano Valley High School, in California’s Orange County. Her brother, Andrew, was among those there that day. He saw Laura and, ever polite, asked Laura’s mother, Debbie — who was also in the audience — if he could ask Laura out on a date.

“That’s our country’s medal,” he said. “It’s not these people’s medal,” meaning the thieves’, or whoever might have it now.

“The sad part is, as my mom said, I shared it with so many kids. I tried,” he said, “to get them to have their dreams.”

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