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KU softball coach reflects on winning gold medal in 2000 Sydney Games

Jennifer McFalls scored game-winning run
jennifer mcfalls
Posted at 5:58 PM, Jul 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-20 19:03:07-04

LAWRENCE, Kan. — The U.S. softball team had won 110 consecutive games entering the 2000 Sydney Games, so a three-game losing streak during pool play was unprecedented and unnerving.

“It's definitely something we had not experienced as a team,” Jennifer McFalls, an Olympian, said. “You have to understand, our team had pretty much been together for four years in training and we weren't used to losing.”

McFalls, who is now the University of Kansas softball coach, and Olympic teammate Christie Ambrosi vividly remember the team’s shock after the third straight loss.

“We got on the bus and, at that point, we were like, 'What is wrong with us? What has happened? We've been cursed,’” McFalls said.

Back at the team’s house in the Olympic Village, some players changed and piled their uniforms in a shower, while others jumped in still wearing them during a cleansing ritual, hoping for better luck.

“We had this one room that had a big shower, so we had a little séance in our shower to wash all the voodoo off our uniforms,” McFalls said. “It made us laugh and just refocus on being the best USA team we could possibly be.”

The U.S. rebounded with two wins to finish fourth in pool play, then avenged all three losses in the medal round – beating China, Australia and, finally, Japan, in the gold-medal game.

“I remember that last game. They've always been good; they're scrappy,” said Ambrosi, now a softball coach at Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan. “To be able to pull through and get that gold medal was just surreal. Then, to be able to step on the podium, put your head down and have them put that medal around your neck — it's something you'll never forget.”

Neither will McFalls, who scored the winning run in the 2000 gold-medal game.

“I remember putting my uniform on like it was yesterday,” she said. “It was just the most unbelievable sporting event experience you can possibly imagine.”