Biography: RAY, Mary Elise

RAY, Mary Elise

Inducted: 2011
Born: Tallahassee, FL


Usually it is injuries that spell the difference between champions and also-rans. However in the case of Elise Ray it was a vaulting horse that was set too low.   Half-way through the 2000 Sydney Olympics it was discovered that the vaulting horse was too low; Ray and several others were given an opportunity to repeat their vaults but this was after  the meet was over and two missed vaults had ruined her All Around chances.

Ten years after Elise Ray and the U.S. women’s gymnastics team finished fourth in Sydney, Ray and her teammates were awarded a bronze medal after an age infraction by the Chinese was discovered by the International Olympic Committee.

“At first I thought, ‘There is no way this is going to happen,’” said Ray, who coaches with Hampstead-based Carroll Gymnastics. “I was just shocked. It’s pretty wild.” …

Missing out on a medal was heartbreaking for Ray, who was 18 at the time. She nearly gave up the sport. “I was very deflated,” she said. “I didn’t know if I wanted to do it (gymnastics) anymore.”

Ray didn’t let up, however, and continued her career at the University of Michigan, where she became the most decorated Wolverine gymnast of all time.

Early Years
Elise Ray attended Steven’s Forest Elementary School in , Maryland and went on to train at Hill’s Angels club in under Kelli Hill, former coach of Olympic medalists and . She earned her first US national team berth as a junior in 1996 and turned in a strong performance in her international debut, the 1996 Junior , placing second in the all-around and winning gold on the and . She continued to excel in the years that followed, picking up an uneven bars silver medal at the 1998 . At the 1999 World Championships in , , Ray was the highest-ranked American of the competition, finishing eighth in the all-around.

Sydney Olympics and vault scandal
Ray won both the US National Championships and the Olympic Trials in 2000. At the Sydney Olympics, Ray was the only American woman to qualify for an event final, . In spite of this, she would encounter major difficulties at the Olympics. In the all-around finals, officials mistakenly set the apparatus 5 cm too low; the situation was not remedied until the competition was halfway over. The change completely altered gymnasts’ entry and post-flight and caused several crashes. Ray was one of the gymnasts who vaulted before the error was discovered; consequently she fell on both her warm-up and competition vaults. On one of her warm up vaults, she came inches away from crashing on her head. Although Ray escaped injury, the experience left her shaken, and she also fell from beam. It is impossible to tell how much her subsequent performances were affected. Gymnasts who had vaulted on the incorrectly set apparatus were invited to redo their vaults at the end of the session; Ray accepted this offer and ended up in 13th place with her revised score. Like most gymnasts who had used the incorrectly set vault, Ray felt that it had a negative effect on her performance: she opined during a post competition interview with NBC that she could have medalled had it not happened.

Post Olympics
After Sydney, Elise attended the on a full athletic scholarship, where she majored in English. She crowned a very successful career by leading her team to the Super Six finals in 2005, and winning a silver on beam. Previously, she tied (with Onnie Willis of UCLA) for the All Around title in 2001) and won gold medals in the balance beam (2002) and uneven bars (2004) events. She performed for three years in , where she was a member of the Cadre team in the resident show.  She also performed in the Cirque Show, Love. Ray also serves occasionally as a color commentator for broadcasts of women’s gymnastics. She coaches at in Hampstead, Maryland.
On April 28, 2010 Elise and the other women on the 2000 Olympic team were awarded the bronze medal in the team competition when it was discovered that the previous medal winners, the Chinese team, had falsified the age of team member .
The U.S. team was given their bronze medals at a special ceremony prior to the Men’s competition at the U.S. Championships in August 2010.

HONORS:  Inducted into the USAG Hall of Fame in 2011, credited with the most All-America honors (14) in the history of the U. of Michigan women’s gymnastics program and Big Ten Conference all-time leader in Gymnast of the Week citations (9).  She has also been honored by the FIG by having three of her skills named for her in the Code of Points. (see attached sample-pike sole circle backward counter straddle-reverse hecht over HB to hang)
FAMILY:  Parents, Ellen and Bill, brother, Taylor.  At one time her parents had a dog, three cats, and nine goats, and one goat had just had babies.

SOURCES: Data and photos obtained from the public domain (Google and Wikipedia), by 2008-2011 Web Manager Jerry Wright, author of Gymnastics Who’s Who-2010.  Editing by Dr. Larry Banner, 1993 GHOF Inductee and 1894-2007 Web Manager, Ph.D. & Ed.D.