SALT LAKE CITY — Chase Lodder stopped at the top of the escalator at Salt Lake City International Airport to look at the cheering crowd below, then raised his arms triumphantly in the air and clapped, the three silver medals around his neck clanging in time.
Flanked by fellow USA teammates Shelley Mooney and Jason Greenhalgh, Utah's returning Special Olympians descended into a crowd of hugs, applause and autographs Friday, the final stop of their two-week trip to the World Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Each member of the group proudly wore the medals from their events.
Lodder, of Sandy, took second place in the snowboard slalom, giant slalom and super giant slalom. He was anxious to talk about the kind people he met in South Korea and the friends he made competing with other athletes.
"My grandpa told me to enjoy everything that's around me," Lodder said. "I would go back in a heartbeat."
Mooney, of Bountiful, competed in snowshoeing, finishing third in the 100 meters, sixth in the 200 meters and fourth in the 400-meter relay. Mooney, who also competed as a gymnast in the 1999 World Games in North Carolina, said she intends to stay in touch with the new friends she met at the games.
Greenhalgh, a Logan resident and alpine skier, took sixth place in giant slalom and super giant slalom, and eighth place in slalom.
"It was awesome seeing everybody here," he said. "It's a great feeling knowing we have supporters back home."
The group was accompanied by Dave Bregenzer, of Logan, who helped coach the Team USA cross country skiers.
Annette Lodder, Chase's mother, was the first person to greet the group with hugs at the bottom of the escalator. She had joined her son in South Korea for 10 days of the competition.
"Watching his race was just amazing," she said. "We've got to hand most of the credit to the Special Olympics. They do things right. They let every one of their participants feel like they succeed."Comment on this story
Though the games were focused on the special-needs youth who were participating, parents in attendance were also strengthened, Annette Lodder said. As she waited for her son at the finish line in PyeongChang, she and other parents cheered just as enthusiastically for every participant.
"There's a real unique relationship between all the parents, as a family, within this special organization and with Special Olympics," she said. "We basically live all over the world, but we actually live in the same world because we're all dealing with the same sorts of situations day in and day out."