Members of Team USA reunite with family, friends in Utah following Olympics


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SALT LAKE CITY — With the Beijing Olympics in the books, Olympians returned home to a warm welcome at the Salt Lake International Airport.

It was the first time many have seen their family and friends in weeks, since spectators were not allowed to attend the Games.

A crowd of supporters — young and old — waited anxiously for their Olympians to land at Salt Lake International Airport Monday.

The first glimpse of Team USA athletes emerging from the security gate — like Olympic gold medalist Nathan Chen — and adoring fans got loud.

"I was not expecting this. This is pretty cool," Chen said.

The 22-year-old from Utah took home a silver medal from the team figure skating event, and broke the record for the highest score in the men's program — all while navigating Beijing's strict COVID-19 rules.

"We tried to stay as safe as possible. We're really lucky to have had the opportunity that we had," Chen said.

The opportunity to compete in Beijing was a proud moment for Maame Biney — the first Black woman to make the Team USA short track speed skating team.

"I wasn't like expecting anything. I just really wanted to have fun and I did. I don't regret anything that happened," she said.

Team USA created lasting bonds and closed this chapter on a high note.

"It was amazing. I made the most of my time there," said Team USA speedskater Ryan Pivirotto.

Chen was proud to represent Utah. "I'm really grateful for what the Salt Lake community has done and given to me."

Athletes say they're ready to resume some of their "everyday routines."

"I'm really looking forward to some good ol' American food, getting my phone back," said Team USA skeleton racer Katie Ulander.

As for Pivirotto, his first meal will be tacos, tacos, tacos.

Biney says she's not ready to commit to any competitions right now beyond Beijing. She plans on partying with friends in Miami and said to ask her in six months.

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Tamara Vaifanua

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