Nearly two years after having to accept silver medals for an event they felt they won, the Carolyn Lynch team received the coveted symbols of their triumph at the Hilton Chicago.

The presentation on Monday ended nearly two years of waiting for Lynch, Mike Passell, Roger Bates, Marc Jacobus and Eddie Wold.

At the 41st World Bridge Championships in Bali, Indonesia, in 2013, a German team accepted gold medals for winning the d’Orsi Senior Trophy despite mounting evidence during the event that two members of the team were using illegal signals. An investigation by the World Bridge Federation confirmed that the signaling had been going on and the German team was stripped of the championship, elevating the Lynch team from runners-up to champions. It was Lynch’s first world championship.

A presentation acknowledging the win took place during last year’s Red Bull World Bridge Series championships in Sanya, China, but the American players had to wait to receive their gold medals.

The informal medal ceremony in Chicago was a bittersweet moment for the team because of the absence of Garey Hayden, their friend and teammate in Bali. Hayden, 70, died unexpectedly on Feb. 5.

“Garey and I were good friends,” said Lynch, first-time world champion. She said she and Hayden corresponded regularly via the Internet.

Passell said his frequent partner was a world-class player and longtime friend. Passell said he played with Hayden and won a regional knockout in Houston about a week before Hayden died. “He won the last event he played in,” said Passell, noting that there is more. Hayden won the last world championship he played in – the Senior event in Bali – and his last national event: the Keohane North American Swiss Teams in Providence RI. On that team, Passell played with Lynch and Hayden. Their teammates were Polish stars Adam Zmudzinski and Cezary Balicki.

Hayden knew about the WBF decision regarding the Senior teams, but Passell said the shock of his friend’s death still has not worn off. “I wish Garey had been here,” he said.

Lynch said her first world championship was a struggle, mostly because of the cloud over the proceedings. “It’s impossible to play your best knowing what’s going on.”

She praised Wold, credited with figuring out the “code” of coughs used by the two Germans, and Donna Compton, non-playing captain of USA2. Compton, said Lynch, vigorously pushed for an investigation and was relentless as the team’s representative. “She was like a bulldog,” said Lynch.

Now that Lynch and her team have closed a difficult chapter, she is ready to resume competing without such distractions. Even without being disadvantaged by opponents not playing fair, Lynch said, it’s tough to win a big event. “It takes a lot,” she said. “The stars have to be aligned.”

Even after the German Seniors were awarded gold medals in Bali, Lynch said, she didn’t give up hope that justice would be done. “All along,” she said, “I felt we had won. In my mind, we won.”