Henry Cejudo lost his Olympic gold medal in a fire; then what happened?

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Henry Cejudo will be the first U.S. Olympic gold medalist to return to top-level competition since the coronavirus pandemic hit. Cejudo, a 2008 Olympic wrestling champion, defends his UFC Bantamweight title against Dominick Cruz, also a former wrestler, at UFC 249 on Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla.

For fights last year, Cejudo wore two different gold medals in front of cameras before or after victories. It’s possible that neither is his original Beijing Olympic gold medal.

Cejudo said he lost it escaping a 2017 California wild fire, when he reportedly said he jumped out of the second floor of a hotel at 4:30 a.m.

He hoped the medal would turn up, but by 10 months later had given up.

“They had scraped the hotel,” he said in an August 2018 podcast. “They said about 2,000 degrees, they say that anything will melt. Gold will melt. Metal will melt. Everything will just disintegrate, so that’s long gone. I just have to go to the United States Olympic Committee and get my replica, and that’s pretty much it. They’ll replace it, but it says replica, unfortunately.”

A U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee spokesperson said Thursday the organization did not receive a request from Cejudo for a replacement medal. An IOC spokesperson said athletes need to contact their National Olympic Committee to request replacement medals.

Replacement medals are common. The most famous was given to Muhammad Ali, who lost his 1960 Olympic boxing gold and was given a new one during halftime of the 1996 Atlanta Games men’s basketball final.

So what medals has Cejudo been wearing? Cejudo and his manager haven’t responded to messages seeking an answer. In a 2018 text, Cejudo said that one of the two medals he wears was given to him by a fan, though he did not specify which one.

One medal looks similar to a Beijing Olympic medal, down to the red ribbon. Another medal is not the 2008 Olympic design. The most obvious difference: It reads “XX Olympiad,” but those were the 1972 Munich Games. The design is much more similar to the Munich medals than the Beijing medals.

Henry Cejudo
Clockwise from top left: Henry Cejudo wearing two different medals in 2019, a 1972 Olympic gold medal and a 2008 Olympic medal. (Getty Images)

In 2012, Cejudo, then 21, became the youngest U.S. Olympic wrestling champion in history, a record since broken by Kyle Snyder. Unlike Snyder, it was truly a surprise title. Cejudo had finished 31st in his lone senior world championships appearance in 2007.

He gained instant fame for his Beijing triumph as the son of undocumented immigrants from Mexico. Cejudo’s story was told in a book, “American Victory.”

Cejudo took three years away from wrestling, came back for the 2012 Olympic Trials, lost and retired. He debuted in MMA the following year. In a 10-month span in 2018 and 2019, Cejudo won the UFC Flyweight and UFC Bantamweight Championships. He became the first Olympic champion to win a UFC belt (Ronda Rousey is an Olympic bronze medalist and former UFC champion).

MORE: Kurt Angle reflects on Olympic wrestling gold medal

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Teri McKeever fired by Cal as women’s swimming coach after investigation

Teri McKeever
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Teri McKeever, the first woman to serve as a U.S. Olympic swimming head coach, was fired by the University of California at Berkeley after an investigation into alleged verbal and emotional abuse of swimmers that she denied.

McKeever was put on paid administrative leave from her job as head women’s swimming coach in May after an Orange County Register report that 20 current or former Cal swimmers said McKeever verbally and emotionally bullied her swimmers.

Cal athletics director Jim Knowlton wrote in a letter to the Cal team and staff that a resulting independent law firm report detailed “verbally abusive conduct that is antithetical to our most important values.”

“I strongly believe this is in the best interests of our student-athletes, our swimming program and Cal Athletics as a whole,” Knowlton said of McKeever’s firing in a press release. “The report details numerous violations of university policies that prohibit race, national origin and disability discrimination.”

The Orange County Register first published what it says is the full independent report here.

“I deny and unequivocally refute all conclusions that I abused or bullied any athlete and deny any suggestion I discriminated against any athlete on the basis of race, disability or sexual orientation,” McKeever said in a statement Tuesday confirming her firing and expressing disappointment in how the investigation was conducted. “While I am disappointed in the way my CAL Career will conclude, I wish to thank and celebrate the many student-athletes and staff that made my time in Berkeley a true blessing and gift.”

McKeever’s lawyer wrote that McKeever “will be filing suit to expose the manner in which gender has affected not only the evaluation of her coaching but harmed and continues to harm both female and male athletes.”

McKeever led Cal women’s swimming and diving for nearly 30 years, winning four NCAA team titles and coaching Olympic champions including Missy FranklinNatalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer.

In 2004, she became the first woman to be on a U.S. Olympic swim team coaching staff, as an assistant. In 2012, she became the first woman to be head coach of a U.S. Olympic swim team. She was an assistant again for the Tokyo Games.

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Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

Diana Taurasi
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Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Olympedia.org. Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

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