South Shore’s three Olympians arrived to the sounds of cheers, horns, whistles and bagpipes Saturday as crowds welcomed the athletes home.
Jamie Anderson, Maddie Bowman and Hannah Teter rode through part of South Lake Tahoe and Meyers on a vintage 1947 fire truck as several thousand people congratulated them from the sidelines and hundreds more waited at an ensuing celebration.
Some residents painted their faces red, white and blue. Others held signs along the 14-mile-long parade route that read “welcome home” and “we are so proud.”
As for the athletes, they were glad to be home, too.
“It feels so good to be back here,” Anderson said before the parade. “Tahoe is always that space where you kind of get to come back and unwind, settle down, enjoy the beautiful nature, hang out with your family. And, especially this time coming home I’ve been on the road for so long. So to fly into Reno and see a little ‘welcome home Jamie’ sign was all time.”
Anderson and Bowman won Olympic gold medals this year for snowboard slopestyle and freeski halfpipe, respectively. Teter placed fourth in snowboard halfpipe. All three are sponsored by Sierra and call Meyers their home.
The fire truck driven by Anderson’s brother, Luke, from Lake Valley Fire, took the Olympians from South Tahoe High School onto Highway 50, then past the airport and through Meyers. It was supposed to reach Sierra-at-Tahoe Ski Resort about 1:40 p.m. but was delayed about an hour near Echo Summit. The delay was reportedly caused by a large rock that fell onto the road.
However, no one seemed to mind at Sierra when the Olympians arrived a little late. A band played above a crowd that cheered louder than ever, chanting “U.S.A.” intermittently as the women made their entrance.
Among the mass of people, South Lake Tahoe resident Joel Dameral, Bowman’s high school science teacher, with his wife and two children, rooted the athletes on.
“I think we need to support what we have,” Dameral said. “It’s amazing to have three Olympians from a town so small.”
Anderson, Bowman and Teter took their seats on a stage and were given several honors and awards by a number of business, city, county and state officials.
Among the officials in attendance were California State Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, Sierra-at-Tahoe General Manager John Rice, South Lake Tahoe Mayor Hal Cole, Lake Tahoe Unified School District board member Sue Novasel, TahoeChamber president Betty “B” Gorman, Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority Executive Director Carol Chaplin and El Dorado Country Supervisor Norma Santiago.
Travis Cabral, a South Shore native who retired from the U.S. Ski Team after competing in the 2006 Winter Games, was also one of the speakers during the celebration at Sierra.
“These girls are amazing athletes, and I’m so proud of them,” Cabral said. “I’m so proud of this community that supports athletes like this.”
Menlo Park, Calif., resident Ravi Balwada watched the celebration with his 8-year-old daughter, Anika.
“My daughter is Jamie’s biggest fan,” Balwada said.
Anika learned about Anderson after watching the South Shore athlete on TV during the Olympics. She was drawn to the way Anderson conducted herself both on and off the mountain and wants to follow in the snowboarder’s footsteps, according to Balwada.
The family even drove out to Sierra so Anika could ride at Anderson’s home resort.
“She won’t ski anywhere else,” he said, adding. “She said, ‘Sierra is my home mountain.”
On stage, Santiago spoke of experiences similar to Anika’s, saying the Olympians’ achievements have already changed people’s lives.
“One day there will be another Sierra-at-Tahoe Olympian who says your name and has your poster and tells your story as their motivation,” she said. “And that will be your everlasting achievement.”