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Medal detector: She found missing Olympic gold Swimmer had left it on plane: ‘Did you leave anything? Perhaps a medal?’



Hansen reunited with gold medal
Sept. 24: When Olympic swimmer Brendan Hansen left his gold medal on an airplane, Casey Taylor found it and returned it to him. TODAY hosts talk to Hansen and Taylor.

Did you leave anything on the plane? Like maybe an iPod, maybe a wallet or perhaps a gold medal?

That is how Casey Taylor began the Facebook message she sent to Olympic swimmer Brendan Hansen on Monday, Sept. 15.

Hansen was, in fact, frantically looking for his Olympic gold medal from the men’s 4×100 medley relay, which he had last seen when he boarded a Southwest flight from Philadelphia to Austin, Texas, the night before.

But Hansen didn’t know he had a Facebook account, because one of his sponsors had set it up on his behalf. So, instead of breathing a sigh of relief, he continued working with the police detectives and the FBI for several hours after Casey Taylor sent her message, trying to locate the precious Olympic bling.

“It was 100 times worse than losing my wallet,” Hansen, 27, said. “It might be up there with losing a kid.”

Alarm bells
Hansen’s troubles began on his way home from Philadelphia, where he had thrown out the first pitch at a Phillies game. The Olympic breaststroker was going through security when his gold medal set off the alarm.

A security agent inspected the medal and took a few photos with Hansen before returning the gold to Hansen’s bag. “That was the last that I saw of the medal,” Hansen said.

The plane made a stop in Nashville, at which point Hansen moved to the front of the plane.  Taylor, a 37-year-old director of business intelligence for a dot-com in Austin, replaced him in his original seat.

When Taylor gathered her things to deplane, she was shocked to see a black velvet box containing an Olympic gold medal beneath her bag. The event — the men’s 4×100 medley relay — was engraved in the gold.

“I looked around; there were only older people and women near me, so I knew it wasn’t theirs,” Taylor recalled. “I felt really bad, because I knew somebody had to be sick about not having it.”

Playing detective
Rather than turning the medal in to airport or airline officials (“I don’t even trust them with my luggage,” she said), Taylor took it upon herself to return the gold to its rightful owner. 

“I was like a CSI detective,” Taylor said. “I spent all Monday morning investigating.”

Through the power of the Internet, Taylor was able to identify Hansen as the owner of the hardware. After getting no response to her Facebook message, she called the University of Texas, Hansen’s alma mater.

“I got a call from the university athletic department and they said, ‘Brendan, are you missing something shiny?’ ” Hansen recalled. That was at 2 p.m. on Monday, 16 hours after he lost the medal.

As fate would have it, Taylor and Hansen live only two miles from each other. When they met, Hansen insisted on giving Taylor a $1,000 reward. She has donated the money to StandUp2Cancer and the American Red Cross.

With a laugh, Taylor said that the good karma did not seem to come back to her, because she got a paper cut right after returning the medal to Hansen. She was, however, flown to New York to appear on Wednesday’s TODAY Show with Hansen.

During his appearance on TODAY, Hansen never took the medal off his neck.

September 29, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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