Last night Olympic swimmer and Arlingtonian Torri Huske was greeted at Dulles International Airport by 40 friends and family members.
The 18-year-old Yorktown High School grad flew back from Tokyo Olympics after competing in three swimming contests, earning a silver medal in one event, as part of the U.S. women’s 4×100 medley relay team, and narrowly missing the podium in the individual 100-meter butterfly race.
From Dulles, her friends drove her almost all the way home — but just before reaching their destination, feigned a wrong turn and ended up in the parking lot of Glebe Elementary School.
There, she was surprised by the flashing lights of Arlington police and fire trucks — the latter of which had hoisted a 50-foot American flag in the air. Below were somewhere between 200 and 300 family members, friends, teammates from Arlington Aquatics Club and Yorktown High School, as well as younger AAC swimmers, her second-grade teacher and other Arlington Public Schools staff who helped the Huskes through the years.
“It was a magical night,” her father, Jim Huske, tells ARLnow.
The event was organized by the Arlington Aquatics Club, offered by Arlington’s Department of Parks and Recreation, and the club with which Torri has swam since she was five years old. Although the Huskes knew the surprise event was coming, they didn’t know how many people to expect. And news of the surprise greeting spread quickly.
“I think I knew 80% of the people there,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Last night we had the privilege of welcoming home #Olympics medalist Torri Huske. Welcome home!! pic.twitter.com/hHYsXYcTmR
— Arlington Fire & EMS (@ArlingtonVaFD) August 3, 2021
Cheering fans held glow sticks and signs, and Torri took photos with young swimmers who look up to her, Parks Department spokeswoman Susan Kalish said. The fire department gave her an honorary shirt and patch.
“Everyone was so excited for her and there was so much joy in the air,” she said. “Torri made a beeline for Evan Stiles, her coach, to give him a big hug when she got out of the car.”
Stiles has been her coach for the last four years, Huske said. He credited him, and all of Torri’s coaches, as well as the local connections who helped Torri find suitable pools to practice in, and APS staff for getting his daughter to the Olympics.
“Everybody has a little piece of that medal, whether they realize it or not, and she knows,” Huske said.
He added that his family is “so proud of her of her swimming. She always wants to do better. She gave it her best at that time, she’s looking forward to the opportunity to represent America again. We’re so proud of how she handled it. At 18, all those young kids, they all banded together, and all helped each other. They did a phenomenal job to support each other, from soup to nuts.”
In an Instagram post, Huske said she is “so grateful for my first Olympic experience and the people that made it so special. There is no better team on earth and no country I’d rather represent. Thank you to everyone that helped me get to this point in my life.”
Last night was a homecoming for an Olympic athlete. But in the next few weeks, Torri is planning to plunge back into regular young-adult things, including catching up on a month of summer she couldn’t spend with her friends before they go their separate ways for college. The swimmer is bound for Stanford University.
“She’s very excited about seeing her friends before they go to school,” Jim said. “Everyone’s going around the country.”
And all her friends are “incredible,” from certified EMTs to singers, he said.
“Torri doesn’t see herself as special,” he said. “All of these friends are so accomplished. They’re great in something else, and she knows she’s no more special than them… It keeps her grounded.”
She takes that same energy to the pool, he said. Huske said his daughter has always been able to keep what happens in the pool separate from what happens outside of it. And, she is always focused on doing better. Four hours after her individual butterfly race, she told her dad — it was 2:30 a.m. in the U.S. — that she “just has to keep working hard.”
“I’m blown away that she had so much composure,” he said. “She likes the pressure… She feeds off the energy of the crowd… She’s learned to channel it.”
Despite the highs of being on an Olympic team in a foreign country, and earning a silver medal, Huske said the last 10 days have been grueling and she’s now trying to relax.
Today, she is baking lemon bars.
Last night ACPD and @ArlingtonVaFD helped welcome Olympic medalist Torri Huske home from #TokyoOlympics! pic.twitter.com/N91jNOo6Ri
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) August 3, 2021
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