STANTON— Kate Schmidt won friends by telling people she played softball in the 1992 Olympics before losing her leg to a doctor’s mistake.
The 32-year-old Stanton woman’s right leg was amputated last year after 16 operations failed to correct a botched, 1995 elective surgery.
Kathryn L. Schmidt, who goes by Kate, won endorsements from an Orange County company, who supplied her with more than $35,000 in high-tech prosthetics to back her bid to compete in the Sydney Olympic Games.
Schmidt impressed everyone when she reported that on her very first try, she threw a javelin more than 200 feet, closing in on the U.S. record of 227 feet, 5 inches, set in 1977 by another athlete, also named Kate Schmidt. Now friends, doctors and sponsors are searching for answers upon learning the disabled Kate Schmidt was living a lie.
Schmidt’s story began to unravel when friends and admirers tuned in to the Olympics to watch her compete, and were perplexed to learn no one named Kate Schmidt was competing on the U.S. team. She had an explanation. She stayed home with an injury, she said, working for CBS-TV and designing sets for the boy band ’N Sync.
Not according to the network. “Never heard of her,” CBS graphic director Tom Burzinski told the Orange County Register for Sunday editions.
Schmidt told nearly everyone she met that she played for the 1992 U.S. Olympic softball team in Barcelona. Her supporters learned later softball was not an Olympic event until 1996. It was not even a demonstration sport in 1992.
Her claim she played semipro softball on two Orange County teams was untrue. Her story about playing four years of varsity high school softball came into question when a search of yearbooks revealed that no Kate Schmidt had participated in any school athletic program. “I don’t think I’ve misled people. ... I never told anybody to write a thing,” Schmidt told the Register.
“Everybody has forgotten that I lost a leg. Everybody is into, ‘Did you say this? Did you do that?”’
“The behavior is called pseudologia fantastica,” said psychiatrist Charles V. Ford, author of Lies!Lies!Lies!: The Psychology of Deceit.”
“These people are sensitive to audiences, so I’m not at all surprised that their wild stories incorporate the Olympics and whatever people are talking about at the time.”