The Olympic bronze medalist is home. But if Thursday's activities are any indication, it will be a long time before Denise Parker blends into the background at Bingham Middle School.
A thousand or so of her close friends and classmates, who flooded her with cards and letters of encouragement during her stay in Seoul, paid tribute Thursday in person.It was "Denise Parker Day" at the school, complete with banners, flowers, cheers, strobe lights and loud music at a dance in her honor.
"A year ago this June, we in the United States first heard about the teenager from South Jordan," said Principal N. J. Tullos. "Since that time she no longer is a typical teenager."
Denise, one of 11 Olympic medalists to come from Utah, appeared on "Good Morning America" and "The Johnny Carson Show" and spent three weeks in mainland China before traveling to Korea to compete in the 24th Olympic Games.
Though she was eliminatedfrom individual competition, Dense helped the U.S. team to a bronze medal in women's archery Saturday at the Hwarang Archery Field.
She'd become a star.
But Thursday, a shy, humble Olympian, sporting a yellow corsage on her sweatshirt, looked like a typical teen, embarrassed by all the fanfare.
"I didn't want it (the dance), but it's great they think this much of me," said Denise, before darting to the center of the crowded, darkened dance floor. But hide she couldn't.
These were the teenagers who each day followed the Olympics on televisions and radios placed strategically around the school. "Oh, she's 11th, eighth, ahh, she missed," were cries of support and anguish for their young classmate, who was competing against the world's greatest archers.
Monday, a large group of friends welcomed Denise home at the Salt Lake International Airport. But none was content with such a minor congratulatory ceremony.
"They wanted to have an assembly and have Denise talk for 15 minutes," said her dance and gym teacher, Dollie Richards.
But Denise, who wants life to return to normal, politely refused.
All she could say Thursday was, "Thank you. I had a great time. It was a great experience." That took less than 30 seconds.
"She is so untouched by it all," said Richards, who's made a deal with Denise. "I am going to teach her jazz, she is going to teach me how to shoot."
The lessons may have to wait.
Denise is gearing up for another exciting event: Her idol and Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis is coming to Salt Lake City next week.