Erin Mirabella waited years for an Olympic medal. She’ll spend the next few days waiting by the mailbox.
Mirabella left Athens on Monday without the bronze medal that the International Olympic Committee declared one day earlier she should have. Colombia’s Maria Luisa Calle Williams was disqualified from the Athens Games after testing positive for a prohibited stimulant, a move that bumped Mirabella from fourth place to third.
The IOC’s decision to award Mirabella the bronze gave the United States its biggest cycling medal haul since the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
“I am very excited, but I am disappointed that I didn’t get a medal ceremony, and that I didn’t get to ride around the velodrome with the American flag,” Mirabella said to friends and relatives in an e-mail obtained by The Associated Press. “It is kind of a bummer that the Colombian stole those moments from me.”
Williams denied taking the stimulant Heptaminol, and the Colombian Olympic Committee also said she tested negative in its post-race exam. Still, the IOC ordered that Williams return the medal and diploma.
Mirabella will get them in them mail, possibly as early as this week.
“It was kind of bittersweet,” Chris Mirabella, her husband and coach, said Monday from their La Habra, Calif., home. “There was no real celebration for her.”
There was, however, an impromptu ceremony. Mirabella learned shortly before Sunday’s closing ceremony that she was the bronze medalist. Knowing that winners received olive wreaths on the podium following their event, mountain biker Mary McConneloug delivered a handmade one Sunday night to Mirabella.
The IOC decision gave USA Cycling four medals in Athens, one more than American riders took away from both Atlanta and Sydney and the most since winning nine medals in Los Angeles, which were boycotted by Eastern Bloc nations — many of whom had powerful cycling programs.
Points racers score through their performances in sprints held every 10 laps; Mirabella scored three points in the first sprint, three more in the fifth, one in the eighth and two in the ninth for a total of 9 points.
Williams finished with 12 points. She had been Colombia’s only cycling medalist at the Athens Games.
“I won a bronze medal,” Mirabella said. “I don’t think anyone from the United States has ever done that in my event at the Olympics. No one can ever take that away from me.”
The only other Olympiad where U.S. riders won more than three medals was at St. Louis in 1904, when 21 medals went to Americans.
The decision also means the United States won at least one track cycling medal for the sixth straight Olympiad. It failed to medal in track cycling at Montreal in 1976, and boycotted the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.