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July 14, 2008 - Image 13

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2008-07-14

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Monday, July 14, 2008
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Gymnast turns to Cirque du Soleil

By ALEX PROSPERI
Daily Sports Writer
Inside the Mirage Hotel &
Casino at the hit show "LOVE,"
is a familiar face to the Michigan
women's gymnastics program.
The show, in which Cirque du
Soleil performs Beatles songs,
is the home to former Michigan
gymnast Elise Ray.
She's not tumbling across the
floor or elevating off the vault, but
Rayloves performing in Las Vegas,
where she's been living for more
than a year and a half.'
"It's an incredible line of work,"
Ray said. "We work hard for sure,
but being out on that stage every
night, it's just crazy."
Ray's life has taken a complete
turn from her days as an Olympic
gymnast to her life on the strip.
Nowadays, Ray relaxes during the
day and then goes to work around 5
p.m., getting off around midnight.
"I love my work, it's amazing,"
Ray said. "We do 10 shows a week.
It's tough, but being out on that
stage is incredible. It really is."
But before Ray was performing
in front of thousands in Sin City,
she was busy becoming a legend-
ary gymnast.
GETTING THERE
Ray didn't have a normal child-
hood, to say the least:

Six days a week Ray woke up
before dawn so her parents could
drive her to 6 a.m. club practice.
After practice ended at 7:30, Ray
went to a full day of school. Then
she returned to the gym from 3-
8 p.m. before going home for the
night.
"It was crazy," Ray said. "I
could do it because you just get in
the rhythm of it. When I look back,
I don't know how I did it, the hours
I did."
Ray's coaches advised her to
attend public school, unlike most
elite gymnasts, so she had a life
outside gymnastics to help her
stay "sane."
Before 1999, Ray didn't think
about the Olympics for fear it
would jinx her chances. But with
one year left before the 2000 Sum-
mer Olympics, Ray finally gave in.
"I'm like 'OK, now I need to
make this definitive, I need to
make this happen,' " Ray said.
"When I went to championships at
trials, I just put it all out there, I
gave it everything I had because it
was like 'This is it.' I made myself
win to secure my spot, there was
no fuss about it."
Ray cried after her name was
announced as a member of the U.S.
Olympic Team. Ray, who would
soon be named team captain, real-
ized that her dream was right
around the corner.

Former Michigan gymnast Elise Rayjoined the Cirque du Soleil show "LOVE" in Las Vegas after the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

THE 2000 SYDNEY
OLYMPICS
The aura, excitement and eupho-
ria normally associated with the
Olympic games were minimal for
Ray.
The women's gymnastics team
wasn't allowed to stay in the Olym-
pic Village with the other athletes

from around the world because the
U.S. Gymnastics officials felt that
the environment was a distrac-
tion. Instead, the team stayed in a
girl's dormitory. Worse, the officials
didn't allow the athletes to go to the
opening ceremonies because they
would be on their feet too much.
But on the mats, Ray did get to

enjoy some of the special moments
that come with the Olympics.
"I do remember the first time we
walked into the arena," Ray said.
"It was completely overwhelming.
All the equipment had the Olym-
pic rings on it. 'Sydney 2000' was
all over the arena. It was just like
See ELISE RAY, Page 14

Was Rodriguez's lawsuit that big of a deal?

We're closing in on a -
week since Michigan
football coach Rich
Rodriguez set-
tled the lawsuit
West Virginia
filed against
him.
Do you feel -
better now?
After so
many people DAN
complained FELDMAN
about Rodri-
guez dragging
Michigan through the mud and
unnecessarily distracting the Wol-
verines, are we really better off
now that the lawsuit is over?
I don't think so.
Because nothing was wrong
while the lawsuit was going on. No
real embarrassment. No distrac-
tions. If Rodriguez is successful at
Michigan, which is far more likely

to be the case than not, everyone
will forget about this buyout non-
sense. '
In addition to claiming that the
$4 million liquidated damages
clause couldn't legally be enforced
because it didn't accurately reflect
West Virginia's losses, Rodriguez
said West Virginia University
President Mike Garrison promised
to reduce or eliminate the buyout,
which Garrison denies.
We'll never know if Rodriguez's
arguments would have won him
the case had it gone to trial, but
they certainly had some merit.
The law says a liquidated damages
clause can't be recovered if it's
substantially high, and that over-
rides a signed contract. It's not like
a cocaine dealer can sign a contract
with a junkie and that would sud-
denly make their transaction legal.
And, for the most part, those who
know both Rodriguez and Gar-

rison trust Rodriguez more than
Garrison.
It definitely appears the
Michigan Athletic Department
encouraged Rodriguez to fight
the lawsuit, given it will cover
$2.5 million of the settlement and
Rodriguez's attorney fees. And
that's notcjust the cost of doing
business - it's the right move.
Athletic Director Bill Martin
could've saved some money short-
term by hiring another coach, but
that would have had costly long-
term implications. Hiring a lesser
coach would have hurt the football
program not only on the field but
also in the revenue it generates.
A successful football team means
the Athletic Department receives
more money through ticket sales
and merchandising and that the
University is more appealing to
potential applicants.
See FELDMAN, Page 15

Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez has received a lot of scrutiny for fighting
West Virginia over the $4-million buyout clause in his contract.

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