Updated: August 05, 2021 06:20 PM
Created: August 05, 2021 05:15 PM
Thursday afternoon, dozens of fans welcomed home Olympic gymnasts Sunisa Lee and Grace McCallum at Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport.
Among the fans were gymnasts from both of their home gyms — Midwest Gymnastics Center in Little Canada, where Lee trains, and Twin City Twisters in Champlin, where McCallum trains.
Lee and McCallum both come home with a team silver medal. Lee also returns with a gold medal as the individual, all-around champion and a bronze medal for her uneven bars performance.
"I knew that her life would never be the same after winning the all-around so in terms of her getting to the all-around finals, that was not a surprise at all," said Punnarith Koy, Lee's longtime coach.
Koy, Lee's coach since she was 6, says he was thrilled to see the smile on her face when she walked through those doors at the airport and is incredibly proud of how far she's come.
"It's a very proud moment, I think she's inspiring to kids of all ages to all races and not just U.S. but globally as well," Koy said.
Many fans showed up to catch a glimpse of their idols and hopefully snap a selfie with them.
"I think it's just exciting because of all the hard work that she's put into it and it's just really cool to see it all pay off," said Anna Dueck, a gymnast from Maple Grove.
Their performances overseas on the global stage are etched in Olympic history. But here at home, these athletes are having quite the impact on the next generation of gymnasts.
"It inspires me so much for her being in the gym with us," Michaela Osland, a gymnast from Lino Lakes, said.
"I want to be like her when I grow up obviously, I want to go to the Olympics," said Ayla Miller, a gymnast from Big Lake.
"It's awesome, it's kind of crazy to see all the support we have back home," McCallum said. "I remember I used to look up to these girls all the time."
On Saturday, McCallum's hometown of Isanti will celebrate the Olympian with a special homecoming celebration. The event starts at 8 p.m., and the mayor will be declaring it "Grace McCallum Day" in Isanti.
On Sunday, St. Paul will hold a special parade to celebrate their champion, Lee. Mayor Melvin Carter told reporters Thursday that the parade will be from 3-5 p.m. on White Bear Avenue, ending with an event at Aldrich Arena.
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