Published: Aug 18, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Aug 18, 2012 05:39 PM
CHAPEL HILL - Nick McCrory received a hero’s welcome when he came home to Chapel Hill last week.
A gathering of friends and neighbors awaited McCrory, a bronze medalist at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, at his family’s house in Colony Woods. After a trans-Atlantic flight to RDU International Airport via Washington, D.C., McCrory was visibly happy to be home Wednesday.
He also was happy to oblige the waves of people who wanted to see his medal.
“This is awesome,” McCrory said, cradling the bronze. “But it’s just a medal. What I’ll remember is the performance I was able to do in the Olympics. ... That’s what I’ll remember.”
McCrory, 20, an alumnus of East Chapel Hill High School, now rising junior at Duke University won the bronze July 30 along with diving partner David Boudia in the men’s 10-meter synchronized competition.
McCrory and Duke University diving teammate Abby Johnston, who earned silver in the women’s Olympic competition, were mobbed by TV cameras, autograph-seekers and well-wishers when they arrived at RDU.
“I never thought there would be so many people wanting my autograph,” Johnston said.
The two Duke divers patiently stood for photo after photo taken by cell phone wielding fans, many of whom wanted to have another photo snapped of themselves wearing one of the medals. McCrory and Johnston obliged every request, then headed to Chapel Hill for a semi-private reception at the McCrorys’ home, followed by reporters.
Surrounded by his family, including his parents Ana and Douglas McCrory and his grandmother Nellie Cuenca, McCrory shrugged off more than eight hours of jet time and a nagging bug that had plagued some of the U.S. divers in London. Wearing a U.S. team shirt and cap, he smiled as he spoke about his first Olympic competition.
“It was the experience of a lifetime,” McCrory said. “Just to be at the Olympic Games was something so few people get to experience.”
McCrory’s parents were in London to see their son compete in the 10-meter competition.
“It was incredible having them there,” Nick said. “They’ve been there with me through everything, so I was glad that I could share that experience with them. I was just proud to have them there.”
“I don’t think I hold my breath,” Ana McCrory said of watching Nick leap from a platform more than 32 feet in the air. “I probably say my prayers, ‘Please, please don’t get hurt.’”
She was considerably less nervous after her son and Boudia clinched the bronze medal.
“It was incredible on the medal podium,” Nick said. “It didn’t hit me for a couple of days, but just being up there during the ceremony and watching the flag waving was a great experience and made it all worthwhile.”
McCrory didn’t get to experience a lot of the ambience of the international event. He even missed the opening ceremonies because the gala was scheduled too close to his first diving preliminaries.
As soon as he and Boudia completed their successful synchronized competition, they and other U.S. divers were whisked off to an aquatics center in Sheffield for more training, far from the bustle of London but also the sights, sounds and smells of the Olympic Village.
But the individual 10-meter competition ended in time for McCrory to enjoy the closing ceremonies, which he said was his most memorable highlight of the Olympics after his competition.
“The closing ceremonies were just incredible,” he said, recalling the parade of athletes and the hour of fireworks and music that followed.
“Walking into the stadium, just walking out of the last tunnel, and you see all the lights flashing and the people cheering – it was really awesome,” McCrroy said. “I felt like a gladiator walking into the Coliseum. It was cool. It was definitely one of my favorite memories.”