Friends - Nicole Branagh and Wiz Bachman McCutcheon
See the previous post below for the backstory.
When Nicole learned of Bachman tragedy, 'I couldn't stand up'
BEIJING — Nicole Branagh expected her close friend to see her Olympic debut Saturday evening.
"I left tickets for her, and her parents at the (hotel)," the former University of Minnesota Gopher said. "I had been communicating with her throughout the day."
But Elisabeth "Wiz" Bachman McCutcheon and her parents never made it to the Chaoyang Park Beach Volleyball Ground.
Earlier in the day, a man wielding a knife attacked them, killing her father Todd and seriously injuring her mother Barbara at a 13th-century landmark.
Branagh didn't learn of the tragedy until after she and partner Elaine Youngs defeated a Netherlands duo in straight sets. She immediately burst into tears.
"I couldn't stand up," said Branagh. "It was very emotional."
Asked how she would have reacted had she been informed before the match, Branagh quickly said, "I don't think I could have played, to be honest."
McCutcheon and Branagh, along with U.S. Olympic indoor volleyball player Lindsey Berg, have helped provide a strong Minnesota connection to a sport known for its West Coast talent. Berg and Branagh played at the University of Minnesota, and Bachman was raised in Lakeville.
The three played on the national indoor team in 2003, winning the Pan American Cup and taking bronze at two other major events, and they played on the Minnesota Chill in 2002, leading the team to a title in the now- defunct United States Professional Volleyball League.
They remain friends, although McCutcheon and Branagh played together for one more year on the national team and even roomed together for a full year and two summers. Branagh was a bridesmaid when Wiz and Hugh McCutcheon married a couple of years ago in the Twin Cities.
Branagh said she is "devastated," and she is mentally and emotionally "exhausted." She and Youngs are 2-0, after winning Monday.
"I can't imagine what that family is going through," Branagh said, fighting her emotions. "I'm just numb."
"Yesterday and today were very hard. I just did the best I could, to focus on my match."
Nicole Branagh dives to make a play on the ball. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) [Monday's match against Germany.]