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Olympic gold medal vanishes in Sabre Springs car break-in

By Michael Chen,


SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A local gold medal Olympian says 'her heart sank’ after learning her medal vanished in a car break-in in Sabre Springs.

“The moment I opened my door, I knew right then that my car had been broken into,” said Debbie Zampini.

Zampini made the discovery Tuesday morning in her driveway along Shy Bird Lane in Sabre Springs. The center console tray was on a seat, and her thought went straight to what she had just seen the previous night in the center console. It was something her friend, Hollie Wilson, held close to her heart.

“A feeling I can't describe. I mean, my heart sank to my stomach,” said Wilson.

Suddenly gone was Wilson's gold medal from the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Wilson, as a teenage catcher, was an alternate for the first US Olympic softball team, which struck gold.

“On the podium, heart beating out of our chests. Nothing like it, representing your country in that forum,” said Wilson.

Decades later, Wilson would face a different fight.

She said in 2018, she was diagnosed with cancer in her nasal cavity and brain and given 10 months to live. Chemotherapy and radiation followed. Today, Wilson is still battling.

“I’d pull it out on sad days, look at that medal, think, okay, I can persevere, one moment at a time,” said Wilson.

Wilson, the mother of two, says her kids, including her 13-year-old son, also take pride in the medal.

“He took it to school for show-and-tell. When he got into the car, he said, ‘Here, mom,’” said Wilson.

Wilson says that day, she placed it in her friend's center console and forgot about it until the break-in.

“I do know what it means to her, and it would mean everything to her,” said Zampini.

“Some people look at it as a thing, but for me and my kids, it represented being a champion … representing the US. I just want it back, no questions asked,” said Wilson.

Wilson says the medal, worth tens of thousands of dollars, is engraved with the phrase "Atlanta 1996.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 888-580-8477.

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