EAGLE MOUNTAIN — Hundreds of adults and children gathered outside an Eagle Mountain middle school Wednesday night, holding signs and eagerly awaiting the flashing lights of a firetruck.
As it arrived, the truck was met with deafening chants of “U-S-A” — chants that welcomed home the truck’s precious cargo: skeleton racer and Winter Olympic silver medalist Noelle Pikus-Pace.
She and her family, who had returned that day from their Olympic travels, were escorted via firetruck from their house in Eagle Mountain to Frontier Middle School, where a community of friends and loyal fans were waiting to greet them.
Eagle Mountain’s mayor, Christopher Pengra, introduced Pikus-Pace to the enthusiastic crowd. Pengra congratulated her on her Olympic medal but emphasized her athletic victory was not the only thing to be celebrated.
“That’s certainly part of the reason we’re here, but that’s really not the whole story,” Pengra said. “I think the rest of the story is really a story about her family. I think the real reason we’re here is because we recognize something special when we see it, and I think that’s what we have right here.”
Pengra shared the love and commitment to each other Pikus-Pace's family members have shown throughout the media coverage of the Olympics in Sochi, Russia, telling them they have their priorities in the right place.
“There’s a lot of athletes out there who would say, ‘I did it,’ but Noelle said, ‘We did it,’ ” he said.
Pengra’s focus on family carried over into Pikus-Pace’s remarks to the crowd.
As she spoke, the medal winner placed heavy emphasis on that concept of “we,” saying she could not have made it on her own. Although she had retired from the sport in 2010, Pikus-Pace and her family chose to work toward the possibility of a skeleton Olympic medal one last time.
“When we decided to come back, we knew that we could be so much stronger as a family," Pikus-Pace said. “There’s power in family; there’s power and strength. And we’ve felt it.”
Pikus-Pace, who is an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also credited her faith as a large part of her success. She discussed “putting our faith first and foremost in our Heavenly Father” and reminded the young people in the crowd to “remember who you are and what you stand for.”
“It’s hard out there,” said Pikus-Pace, who previously served as a stake Young Women president. “It’s really, really hard, and you don’t get anywhere alone.”
After the honoree's remarks, Pengra proclaimed Feb. 26 as “Noelle Pikus-Pace Day,” crediting her education, her involvement in the Eagle Mountain community and her success at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
Pikus-Pace assured the crowd that, after the long journey she has taken, she will truly retire from skeleton.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company