Silver medalist Xander Schauffele took gold at the Rio Olympics and a fraction of a second later a Times story put a medal of his father’s medal under the microscope. The Times characterized the gold in the Special Olympics and, subsequently, the Schauffele home as a “foreign medal” and referred to the medal as belonging to one “in the clutches of his beloved father.” On Monday, Schauffele said it was a false accusation — and once again the Times acknowledged it was wrong. The Times has apologized and has issued a correction.
Schauffele and the Times are going back and forth about the sentence, but it still ticks off him:
“In my seventh grade, we were going to travel from Austria to America and we found the medal. Of course I wore it and showed it to everyone,” he said. “I think now they may have forgotten, but I won it, so I don’t understand why I am in a problem.”
Schauffele’s father, Tibor, came from Hungary and came to the United States as a Jew in the 1950s, eventually meeting and marrying this mother, Ardie. Tobor fought in the Hungarian army and the newlyweds created a home together in Oklahoma and spent time in Austria after that. The gold medal wouldn’t have been for them, their son says.
“You don’t want to steal from somebody else’s medal, you know?” Schauffele said. “It’s not like you come home with the gold just to show it to your son. It was for somebody else. Not just for you, but for someone else. It was for a very deserving person and that was the Special Olympics. It was not just my medal. It was a lot of medals for a lot of deserving people.”
Blaming Schauffele’s father, a gold medalist who is believed to have competed in the Special Olympics, is part of a larger Times trend that started over the summer.
In August, the Times reported on Ryan Lochte’s robbery account and presented the race swimmers’ communications as a betrayal of trust and trustworthiness and, presumably, Schauffele. “He says he will carry the guilt forever,” the article read. “The U.S. men’s swimming team’s debut in Rio was tarnished when its biggest stars took to the podium under duress, accused of extorting sums of money from taxi drivers as they attempted to leave the Games.” In a less-than-stellar Olympics for the Americans, the Lochte story received lots of coverage. Schauffele, however, was an unknown who won the gold and stole the spotlight away from Lochte and the other swimmers.
The Times now appears to have moved on to claim that Schauffele’s father simply loves his son too much to part with the medal. The Times’ updated headline on Monday read: “Schauffele: My father had tried to take my gold medal.”
“He already had it. He just never wanted to give it up,” Schauffele said. “I never felt that it was my fault. I wish the Times had a little better journalistic integrity than that. They should say my dad tried to steal my medal.”
The Times’ revised headline begins: “I thought that the elder Schauffele had taken my gold medal. Now I know he didn’t.”
Schauffele and his wife, Emma, recently opened a coffee shop in Las Vegas. Their son, Max, is in college and is training to be an all-around gymnast.
The Schauffees have also indicated they might try to take legal action.