A night earlier they were still in London, getting one final taste of the Olympic experience at the traditional Closing Ceremony.
On Monday, a trio of athletes who represented Virginia on Team USA -- field hockey players Paige Selenski and Michelle Vitesse, and gold medal-winning swimmer Lauren Perdue -- returned to Charlottesville. A crowd of teammates and friends cheered as they arrived at Charlottesville-Albemarle Regional Airport.
After soaking up some hugs, all three talked about making the most of their Olympic experiences.
"Just being able to represent Team USA is unlike anything we've ever done before," said Vitesse. "It's sort of like any athlete's, it's their dream. It's really moving, and it's really something that any athlete dreams of doing."
"It's unlike anything else I've ever experienced my whole life," agreed Selenski. "Even the crowd and the fans and everything, it's huge for our sport and huge for our country. It's been a great experience. It's one I'll treasure and remember forever."
Selenski, a forward, and Vitesse, a midfielder, both appeared in all six Olympic games for Team USA, which went 1-5. Selenski had a goal and two assists, while Vitesse had a pair of shots. Now the two redshirt seniors will both rejoin the Virginia field hockey team after missing last season to train with Team USA.
Perdue, a rising senior, qualified for the Team USA after a fourth place performance in the 200-meter freestyle at June's Olympic trials. Although she didn't compete in the championship race -- she swam the first leg for the US in prelims -- Perdue earned a gold medal as a member of the US 4x200-meter freestyle relay team.
"I've worked my whole life for this moment," said Perdue, who worked her way back from back surgery in March to make the US Olympic team. "It's hard to even put it into words. Making the Olympics is one thing. And earning a gold medal is a completely, it's just the cherry on top of this whole experience."
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