|— Gymnast —|
|Country represented||United States|
February 6, 1982 |
|Discipline||Women's artistic gymnastics|
|Former coach(es)||Kelli Hill|
Biography and early career
Ray attended Steven's Forest Elementary School in Columbia, Maryland and went on to train at Hill's Angels club in Maryland under Kelli Hill, coach of Olympic medalists Dominique Dawes and Courtney Kupets. 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 Pan American Championships, placing second in the all-around and winning gold on the uneven bars and floor exercise. She continued to excel in the years that followed, picking up an uneven bars silver medal at the 1998 Goodwill Games. At the 1999 World Championships in Tianjin, China, 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, balance beam. In spite of this, she would encounter major difficulties at the Olympics. In the all-around finals, officials mistakenly set the vault apparatus 5 cm too low; the situation was not remedied until the competition was halfway over. The change completely altered gymnasts' entry and postflight and caused several crashes. Ray was one of the gymnasts who vaulted before the error was discovered; consequently she fell on both her warmup 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.
After Sydney, Elise attended the University of Michigan on a full athletic scholarship, where she majored in English. She crowned a very successful NCAA career by leading her team to the Super Six finals in 2005, and winning a silver on beam. She visits back to Ann Arbor, occasionally to cheer on the team that she used to compete with. Previously, she tied (with Onnie Willis of UCLA) for the All Around title in 2001) and won golds in the balance beam (2002) and uneven bars (2004) events. She performed for three years in Cirque du Soleil, where she was a member of the Cadre team in the Las Vegas resident show O. She also performed in the Cirque Show, Love. Ray also serves occasionally as a color commentator for Big Ten Network broadcasts of women's gymnastics. She coached at Carroll Gymnastics Center in Hampstead, Maryland afterwards.
On April 28, 2010 Elise and the other women on the 2000 Olympic team were awarded the bronze medal in the team competition when the it was discovered that the previous medal winners, the Chinese team, had falsified the age of team member Dong Fangxiao. As a result of the falsification, Dong's results were nullified, and the Chinese team was stripped of the medal by the IOC.
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.
On September 22, 2011, Elise joined the Washington Huskies gymnastics program as an assistant coach, replacing her former Michigan teammate Shanna Hannan. She is reunited with head coach Joanne Bowers, who was an assistant coach at Michigan.
Elise Ray has three uneven bars skills named after her in the Code of Points:
- Ray I: Facing inward, a stalder backward with release and counter movement forward in flight to hang
- Ray II: Toe-on Tkatchev release move (rated D in the most recent Code of Points)
- Ray III: Double twisting double layout dismount rated G - the highest difficulty rating possible
Elise Ray graduated from the University of Michigan with the most All-America honors (14) in the program's history.
Elise Ray is the Big Ten Conference's all-time leader in Gymnast of the Week citations, earning nine in her career.