It's not every day you get to hold a gold medal. It's pretty cool to give our residents that opportunity. —Nikki Wilkins
SALT LAKE CITY — Most people know Maddie Bowman for her feats in halfpipe skiing, a dizzying display of spins and grabs performed at breathtaking heights above the icy pipe, all the while on skis.
But Bowman, who won the inaugural gold medal in her sport at the Sochi Games, was firmly grounded Wednesday as she paid a visit to Mission at Hillside, a care center in Sugar House.
Fresh off her Olympic triumph, Bowman dropped by the care center Wednesday to share her gold medal with residents and staff and to entertain their questions. Bowman, 20, made the rounds of a conference room to meet every resident and staff member and to offer each the opportunity to hold her medal.
"I'm neighbors with you guys. I live just up the street. It's about time I got to know my neighbors," said Bowman, who is a Westminster College student.
Wednesday was actually Bowman's second visit to the center. Her roommate Lexi Brooks is a nursing student at the University of Utah who volunteers at Hillside. This past weekend, she asked Bowman to drop by to show her medal to a couple of residents. That turned into a large-scale visit on Wednesday.
Hillside resident Mike Burke said he appreciated Bowman's patience and willingness to share her experiences.
"I'm 55 years old and I had never met an Olympian, let alone a gold medalist," Burke said.
Another resident, Barbara St. Germain, said she dutifully watched the Olympics. "I love the Olympics," she said.
Meeting Bowman "was definitely a surprise. It was a real nice thing to do for us," St. Germain said.
Nikki Wilkins, Hillside's recreation director, said Bowman's visit was a rare treat.
"It's not every day you get to hold a gold medal. It's pretty cool to give our residents that opportunity," Wilkins said.
Bowman said life since the Sochi Games has been something of a whirlwind.
In a few weeks, she and other medal winners will travel to Washington, D.C. to meet President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.
Before that, her hometown of South Lake Tahoe, Calif., is hosting a parade to honor her and snowboarder Jamie Anderson, 20, who won gold in slopestyle. "We get to ride on a fire truck in the parade," Bowman said.
The Sochi experience of meeting athletes from other countries, visiting Russia and competing successfully "was cool," she said.
"The Russian people were so wonderful. They were so happy to host the Olympics. They were so proud," she said.
A seasoned X Games and Dew Tour competitor, Bowman said it didn't fully sink in that she was competing in the Olympics until she watched her competitors — many of them close friends — skiing the halfpipe.
"The girls I ski with are great. There was a lot of joking and dancing at the start (of the Sochi competition.) We have a very unusual camaraderie that not a lot of sports have," she said.