Full Twist contributor Anna Rose Johnson caught up with USA’s Elise Ray to discuss her coaching, favorite memories, and more!
Elise Ray was a member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic women’s bronze-medal winning team in Sydney. At those Games, Elise also placed eighth in the all-around. The U.S. women originally returned home from the Olympics with a fourth place finish in the team final, but it was discovered in 2010 that third-place China had an underage competitor, so the U.S. was awarded the bronze. Elise was the all-around champion at the 2000 Olympic Trials and the 2000 U.S. Championships. Additionally, she competed at the 1999 World Championships.
FT: What have you been up to lately?
ER: I’ve been the assistant gymnastics coach at the University of Washington for three years. I moved across the country for the job and I’m absolutely in love with Seattle! I don’t know what the future holds, but I consider this my latest adventure and I feel very blessed.
FT: What was your favorite skill to compete?
ER: Hands down the Ray 1, toe-on Tkatchev. I promise I’m not just saying that because it’s one of my skills! It’s so fun to do! It’s especially fun connected to another Tkatchev because it feels like you’re flying.
FT: What are some of your favorite memories from competition?
ER: [The] 2000 U.S. Championships was my favorite competition of all time. I can’t describe it, but I knew I was going to win. As most elite athletes can attest to, that feeling doesn’t happen often. [The] 2000 U.S. Championships was the first time I ever competed a yurchenko double full. The title was on the line, it was my last event, and I asked Kelli [Hill] if I could go for it, and she said yes. (Talk about trust in your athlete!) I just knew I would make it and she must’ve seen it in my eyes. I wanted to do the double so it would solidify my title and it did! To this day, I try to apply that absolute trust-in-intuition to my everyday life.
FT: What was it like to receive an Olympic medal ten years after the competition?
ER: Very, very bittersweet. And very, very strange. The team hadn’t been all together since Sydney, and when we left each other then, we were all heartbroken and there was a very dark cloud over all of our experiences. Then, a decade later, we were brought together to celebrate something we had all grown so far past. It was amazing to see the girls and amazing to actually receive the medal, but I don’t feel completely deserving of it nor does it make what was such a difficult and heartbreaking experience a decade before, any easier to remember. But do I enjoy holding in my hands!? Absolutely!
FT: What’s a typical day like for you now?
ER: Our team trains in the morning for four hours. After practice, I have office duties which include recruiting, team coordinating/planning/strategizing, marketing meetings, etc. After work I usually take dance classes or yoga and round out the day making dinner, FaceTiming with my nephews in Maryland, hanging out with those I love, or doing something fun in this great city.
FT: Can you tell us about coaching at University of Washington?
ER: University of Washington is an amazing place. Not only is it set in the midst of one of the most beautiful cities, but the people are amazing: down-to-earth, genuine, and fun-loving. I work with people who really care about one another. I also love working with college-age girls. I did a lot of my own growing up in college so I can really relate to them and hopefully mentor them through some of their own growing pains. Gymnastics at the age of 18-22 is a much different sport than it is when you’re younger; there’s a delicate balance in every aspect of the lives of these young women. I enjoy coaching that wholeness, the growth in both sport and in life. Plus, the girls make me laugh every single day.
FT: Is there anything you’d like to share with the Full Twist readers?
ER: In my adult life, I still find myself using things I learned in the gym: discipline, hard work, belief in yourself, positive self-talk, and the importance of goals. I’m thankful for so many things the sport of gymnastics has taught me. Don’t underestimate what kindness and hard work can do!
Many thanks to Elise for answering our questions!
Image via Elise Ray.