SALT LAKE CITY — Some of best young athletes from the United States are now back home after competing in the Winter Olympics in China; that includes several who either grew up or have strong ties to Utah.
The Olympians had family, friends and loved ones waiting to greet them at Salt Lake City International Airport following the long flight home from Beijing.
Athletes representing the U.S. all spent the better part of the last month in China competing and supporting one another. From the first time Olympians to those who have been to multiple games, all said it is an amazing experience.
For gold medalist Nathan Chen, it was an especially satisfying homecoming.
“I grew up here in Salt Lake City, started my career here, started over at Steiners, so it’s amazing to be able to realize that I’m back here, almost like full circle you know?" said Chen. "Started here and just really grateful for everything the Salt Lake community has done and given to me and allowed me to go on this crazy journey.”
Welcome home @TeamUSA! We are so proud of all your accomplishments. And a special congratulations to the Utahns who grew up, live or train in the @StateofSport, earning 19 of the 25 🇺🇸 medals! https://t.co/9lDPHRYcuq— Mayor Erin Mendenhall (@slcmayor) February 21, 2022
But not everyone was expecting such a large group waiting to welcome them home.
"I was very surprised and I have one of my one of my best friends, Victoria, she’s from back home and so it’s really nice to see her, so yeah, it’s been good,” said short track speedskater Maame Biney.
Another great moment came during an almost-Olympic-level sprint, jump and hug which speedskater Ryan Pivirotto received from his fiancé Nikki Leonard.
Herriman's Kaysha Love always dreamed of being an Olympian, but figured it would be in the summer games after spending years competing in track and field, but that segued into an invitation to try bobsled and she made the Olympic team. Now, if all goes according to plan, she’ll try out for the 2026 games, then 2030, with the hope those games happen right here in Utah.
All the athletes were in agreement that they couldn’t wait to sleep in their own beds and re-acclimate themselves to American cuisine. Pivirotto, in particular, said he is making a beeline for tacos ASAP.