LAKE GEORGE — The 1980 USA Women’s Volleyball Team is in Southern Colorado for 40 years, plus one because of COVID, reunion. Nine of the fourteen team members have turned the Bison Peak Lodge near Lake George into an enclave of previous Olympians cheering on current Olympians in Tokyo. They will do a meet a greet with the public on Friday, July 30th at the Olympic and Paralympic Museum in Colorado Springs.
The history of the 1980 USA Women’s Volleyball team is filled with successes and a major disappointment.
When the Olympic Training Center opened in Colorado Springs, the women’s volleyball team was the first group of Olympic hopefuls to move to the center.
“I can still see the chain-link fence closed. I can see a sign about this big, a little wooden sign. It said U.S. Olympic training center on it. The fence had barbed wire at the top,” said 1980 team member #5, Debbie Landreth Brown.
When the team arrived it was very different from the current high facility. The center was old buildings and barracks from the previous military base. There was no gym for practice on the campus.
“It was what we wanted to do, what we were dreaming of and to do it together,” said #12, Terry Place Schaettler.
They spent several years training six days a week in Colorado Springs. They rose to dominance in women’s volleyball. They were the first USA women’s volleyball team to qualify for the Olympic games.
“I thought we were getting gold in 80,” said #10, Debbie Green. The team was ranked top two heading into the games.
Then world politics put plans for gold in jeopardy. “It’s hard for us to talk about,” said #8 Laurel Brassey Iverson.
Even after four decades, the situation is emotional for the team. Because of Russian invading Afghanistan, there was talk of a United States Boycott of the Olympic games in Russia. The team trained hard with hopes it was only posturing. Just months before the games the boycott became official. “Pretty tough day when that decision came down,” said Brown.
The boycott experience gives the 1980 team a unique perspective on the delays and unknowns with the Tokyo games caused by the pandemic.
“There’s that little thing in the back of your head that goes, is going to be okay, are we, am I going to make the team?” said Iversen.
The 1980 team sent a message and care package to the current USA Women’s Team in a show of support.
Some members of the 1980 team won medals at later Olympic games. They have also been coaches for Olympic teams. The boycott was a major disappointment, but they say they came out of it better equipped to face tough situations that happen in life.
There is also a major positive. Nods of agreement as multiple team members say, “We are family.” The team turned to each other while living and training together for several years away from home.
“I just looked to one of these guys, any of them and you’d get the support, the love, the encouragement,” said #16, Laurie Flachmeier Corbelli. The bond of the friends remains strong after more than four decades.