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Thursday, August 26, 2004
Updated: August 27, 11:57 AM ET
Scurry: I changed everything

By Carrie Sheinberg
Special to ESPN.com

ATHENS, Greece -- Briana Scurry, the gold-medal winning goalkeeper for the U.S. women's soccer team in Atlanta and the literal and figurative backstop for perhaps the most successful soccer team in history, tonight made her most important save: herself.

Briana Scurry
Goalkeeper Briana Scurry wanted to give her teammates one more shot at gold.

Only five years ago, Scurry was in trouble. And Thursday night's gold-medal victory against Brazil in overtime means that her redemption is complete. It has been a long time coming.

In 1999, Scurry says she got "caught up in" the excitement of the media attention surrounding her team's World Cup victory against China and went on a self-destructive binge that sent her weight sky-rocketing and her spirits headed in the other direction.

And with the added weight came mounting injuries. "I got a stress fracture in my shin," Scurry, 32, said, "and came to Sydney, bitter and angry and sitting on the bench."

Scurry, a Minnesota native and University of Massachusetts graduate who had once been the field general for the world's most popular women's team, was suddenly relegated to a backup role. For the fiery, steely eyed netminder it was an adjustment she admits she failed to make smoothly, and her frustration simmered. Until a pivotal evening in Sydney, when she watched her team stumble to second place, did she realize she had to do something. And the shock awakened her.

"I realized that I could still do it, but I wanted to do it differently," she said.

Scurry set out on a mission to save her career.

"I hibernated in the gym, did a lot of research online about nutrition, about eating and about working out," Scurry said. "I tried all different things until my body responded."

It worked.

"I've been working my butt off for the last three years, wanting to come back on this team and be the starter," Scurry said. "And just be better than I've ever been. I changed everything about myself: my attitude about life, my attitude about this team and my training and my eating. Just everything."

The work Scurry did even affected the attitude of her teammates.

"We were inspired by it," defender Joy Fawcett said. "We were hoping that she would come out of it and make the choice to come back, because she's an awesome player. She's fit and ready, she's so mentally strong and confident, no one could beat her."

The work pulled Scurry out of her downward spiral and reawakened the champion she'd been. Especially on this night, against a powerhouse Brazilian team that seemed ready to do anything to take the championship from the Americans.

"They were throwing the kitchen sink at us, but I just knew we had the heart to get the gold," Scurry said. "I just wanted to win so badly, I was not going to accept anything tonight except for gold."

Scurry points out that while her comeback began as a quest to regain her pride and her performance, it turned into something very different. Her team, one that had made history, would soon disband forever and on this night she could do something for them, too.

"I want to give them a gift," she said before the game. "I want them to stand on the top of the podium and hear the national anthem one more time."

And if her teammates' glory wasn't enough inspiration, Scurry had one more person in mind Thursday night: her father, Ernest, who passed away only two months ago on Father's Day.

"I wanted to win so badly for him because I know he's watching me, and I know he's proud," Scurry said. "And I wanted to make him proud of me one more time."