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‘It Seems Like A Dream Still’: Collinsville Native Michelle Bartsch-Hackley On Gold Medal Win

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Michelle Bartsch-Hackley
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Michelle Bartsch-Hackley, a 2008 graduate of Collinsville High School, was on the U.S. women's volleyball team that won a gold medal in Tokyo.

Just over one week ago, Michelle Bartsch-Hackley became an Olympic gold medalist. Along with her USA Volleyball teammates, she helped achieve the United States’ first gold medal in women’s indoor volleyball.

That reality hasn’t sunk in for Bartsch-Hackley, 31, who was born in Kansas City, Kansas, and graduated from Collinsville High School in 2008.

“It seems like a dream still,” Bartsch-Hackley said on Monday’s St. Louis on the Air.

Growing up, Bartsch-Hackley said she dreamed of playing in the Olympics but didn’t think it would be volleyball. Soccer and swimming came to mind.

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USA Volleyball
Michelle Bartsch-Hackley helped guide the team to its first-ever gold medal and was named one of the best outside hitters of the Olympics.

“I grew up in Collinsville, and soccer is pretty big,” she said.

Bartsch-Hackley said her parents didn’t push her toward any specific sport — they wanted her to find her passion. Entering high school already 6-foot-3, a lot of people encouraged her to play volleyball. She was good at it and listened. Once she got to the University of Illinois, volleyball became her focus.

“I always found volleyball a lot more enjoyable, and it was just really fun for me,” Bartsch-Hackley explained.

Bartsch-Hackley’s path to the Olympics took many roads. She played professionally in Puerto Rico, Germany, Italy and China. In a couple of weeks, she’ll be headed to Istanbul, Turkey, where she will begin her third season with a team there.

“My team in Istanbul, I think, is probably one of the best teams I’ve ever played on,” Bartsch-Hackley said. “Pretty much everywhere except the United States, volleyball is big.”

In nonpandemic years, stands are packed. Turkish volleyball athletes are celebrities, and Bartsch-Hackley said people in public recognize her.

Listen: Winning A Gold Medial

“Turkish people are very friendly. I love playing there. It’s one of the best places in the world to play,” she said.

Bartsch-Hackley said winning an Olympic gold medal is satisfying toward the end of her career. And, while COVID restrictions prevented friends and family from traveling to Tokyo to see it, she said she was able to live vicariously through all the watch parties.

“That was really cool for me to see everyone together,” Bartsch-Hackley said. “I’m not sure that would have happened if all my family and friends had made the trip together.”

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Bartsch-Hackley's birthplace.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Alex is the executive producer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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