|Kelsey Serwa holds up her silver Olympic medal after her arrival at Kelowna airport on Thursday. More than 250 people turned up to welcome her home from the Sochi Games, where she won silver in women's ski cross.|
A big and boisterous homecoming crowd triggered a sense of deja vu Thursday for Olympic silver medallist Kelsey Serwa.
Applause and cheers from hundreds of well-wishers greeted Serwa as she arrived back in Kelowna after competing in the Sochi Winter Olympics.
"It was awesome, beyond anything I expected," Serwa said of the large reception she was accorded at the city's airport. "It felt like I was going out for the medal ceremony all over again."
The terminal's southern concourse was a sea of red-and-white, with fans waving Canadian flags and holding signs that read "Go, Kelsey, Go!" and "You did it, Kelsey!"
With a Mountie dressed in Red Serge for an escort, Serwa climbed a staircase overlooking the large crowd while schoolkids from
South Kelowna Elementary, who'd taken the afternoon off, cheered loudly for their adopted hero.
As Serwa was being introduced by acting mayor Gail Given, one impatient fan yelled from below: "Where's your medal, Kelsey?"
Laughing, Serwa said she'd left it in her
backpack. Her boyfriend, Stan Rey, brought it to her, and she held it aloft for the crowd to
In her emotional remarks to the crowd, Serwa, who won silver in the women's skicross competition in Sochi last Friday, said she felt humbled and honoured by the large turnout in her hometown.
"I'm so glad to be able to share this experience with you," said Serwa, whose future at the top level of international competition had been clouded less than a year ago by a number of serious injuries.
"The support you guys have given me, that's what's given me the strength to come back from my injuries," Serwa said. "This medal isn't just mine. It belongs to all of you."
Rhythmic clapping then broke out as the gathered students engaged in some choreographed dancing. Serwa was then asked by radio personalities emceeing the event to lead the crowd in the singing of O Canada.
On the airport's second level, Glenda Serwa was beaming with pride as she used a tablet computer to record her granddaughter's address to crowd.
"It's absolutely wonderful to see so many people here," Glenda Serwa said. "Kelsey puts so much effort and dedication into her sport, and I think people really recognize and respect that."
Serwa, 24, won the women's skicross world title in 2011, and a gold medal at the 2011 X Games. She credited support she received from the Own The Podium program and Alpine Canada for helping her reach the top competitive level of her sport.
"That's the difference between having two jobs and training or just being able to focus on training, which is what I've been able to do these last few years," Serwa said.
Although the current skicross season is continuing, Serwa doesn't plan to race again this year, opting instead to spend some time with friends and family.
Asked if she plans to try to make the Canadian team for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, Serwa said: "As long as my body isn't hurting and I'll still loving it, I don't see any reason to stop competing."