Nothing quite beats a State Police escort from the airport to a homecoming rally held in your honor. Olympic swimmer and two-time medalist Elizabeth Beisel received just that when she returned home to Rhode Island following her medal-winning performances in the 2012 London Olympics.
Hundreds upon hundreds of fans from around the state flooded the athletic complex at North Kingstown High School for the homecoming event, sponsored by WJAR-TV Channel 10. Beisel arrived around 7:40 p.m. by State Police escort from T.F. Green State Airport after flying into Washington, D.C. from London. Overwhelmed by the outpouring of applause and "Beisel" chants, the 19-year-old North Kingstown native covered her face several times as she crossed the football field.
"Even though I'm living in Florida right now, Rhode Island is always going to be my home," said Beisel. "I brag to everyone wherever I am about how great Rhode Island is."
A 2010 graduate of North Kingstown High School, Beisel swam in the 2008 Beijing Olympics at the age of 15 – the youngest member of the US Swim Team. Beisel currently swims for the University of Florida's Gator swimming program, which has churned out fellow Olympic athletes Ryan Lochte and Dara Torres.
"Thank you for bringing honor to our school system and our community and for being such a great inspiration to our students," said North Kingstown Superintendent of Schools Dr. Phil Auger.
Also in attendance was Congressman James Langevin and Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts, who called Beisel's Olympic performance "brilliant." Beisel took home a silver medal in the 400-meter individual medley and a bronze medal in the 200-meter backstroke.
Many at the event sported their Team Beisel T-shirts, which were sold to help raise money to send the Beisel family to London to watch Elizabeth compete and raise money for the North Kingstown Food Pantry. During the 2008 Games, only Elizabeth's mother Joan was able to travel to Beijing. Jack Bauer of Needle Designs (who designed and produced the shirts) along with Debbie Gardiner (who organized the fundraising efforts) presented a $15,000 check to the Beisel family at the event.
Beisel added that she hopes to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Her goal for those Olympics: add a gold medal to her bronze and silver.
Did anyone from Tiverton or Little Compton make it over for Beisel's homecoming? Tell us in the comments below.