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Parade of Olympians greeted at Salt Lake airport

By Amanda Butterfield | Posted - Mar. 2, 2010 at 4:17 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY -- A parade of Olympians arrived at Salt Lake International Airport Monday night, as several Utahns returned home from Vancouver. Several members of the U.S. Speed Skating Team and a member of the U.S. Ski Team made it home safely to signs and cheers from family and friends.

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Utah's Olympians have been away from their families for a long time. Most who arrived home Monday night were on the speed skating team, like Chad Hedrick.

"We were out there for almost three weeks," Hedrick said.

It was his last Olympic homecoming -- he's retiring from the sport.

"Now I'll be moving on," Hedrick said. "But I totaled five medals in two Olympics, and I'm really proud of my accomplishments."

Even coaches were happy to be back in Utah.

"I came off plane, took a deep breath and said, ‘I'm home!'" long track speed skating coach Derek Parra said. "It's always good to come back, to have this reception is even better."

The U.S. Speed Skating Team brought home 10 medals from the Vancouver games.

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"We got some medals in events we didn't think [we would], and didn't get some medals in events we thought we would," Parra said.

Along with the speed skaters coming home, freestyle aerialist Jeret "Speedy" Peterson made it back.

"I had the most amazing time up there," Peterson said. "It was epic, everything I wanted it to be; turned out exactly how I wanted it to turn out."

Peterson won the silver medal in freestyle aerials, landing his signature jump, the Hurricane.

"Seventeen years later, to get an Olympics medal, I can't tell you how happy I am!" he said.

In all, U.S. athletes brought home 37 Olympic medals from Vancouver: a new winter record.

Now the plan for these Utah athletes is to take a little break to enjoy their success and relax.

"I'm looking forward to hanging out with my friends and family," Peterson said.

The old U.S. record for medals in a winter Olympics was 34, set here in Salt Lake City in 2002.

E-mail: abutterfield@ksl.com

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