Hansen’s lost Olympic gold medal returned a day later
PHILADELPHIA — Olympic swimmer Brendan Hansen does better in pools than planes. He lost his gold medal from the Beijing Games during a flight from Philadelphia to Texas but got it back a day later. “For about 18 hours, I was sweating bricks,” the American breaststroke specialist said Tuesday. “What a roller-coaster of emotions the last few days have been.” Hansen was returning to Austin on Sunday night after visiting his hometown in suburban Philadelphia for a bachelor party, said his mother, Miriam Hansen. He was carrying the medal he won for the 400-meter medley relay, the race that gave Michael Phelps his record eighth gold. The medal disappeared from a side pocket of Hansen’s backpack, which he kept between his legs during the flight. He thinks it may have fallen out when he moved up a few rows during a stopover in Nashville, Tenn. He realized the medal was gone when he was getting off in Texas, his mother told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “I don’t have my medal,” the 27-year-old swimmer told his mother by phone. “It’s not in my bag.” Hansen informed Southwest Airlines, Philadelphia police and USA Swimming. A woman who found the medal on the floor in the back of the plane saw that it was from the relay event and contacted police, Miriam Hansen said. The woman, a college student, said she wanted to get it to its owner. Police advised her to contact the University of Texas, Hansen’s alma mater, on the belief that any swimming medalist in the area was probably affiliated with the school. Hansen got a call from the university’s athletic department and was asked: “Brendan, are you missing something shiny?” Hansen finally met the woman who found the medal. He gave her a check and said she promised to donate the money to charity. Miriam Hansen said she wants to know everything that happened but that didn’t interest her son.