Olympic gold medalist Kaillie Humphries returned home to Carlsbad on Monday afternoon to an energetic homecoming of proud family, friends and strangers hoping to catch a glimpse of the prized medal.
"It feels so sweet when it works out and you get to bring home some hardware to the people that have been there and part of the journey," Humphries said.
Humphries, 36, competed in the inaugural monobob event and became the first-ever gold medalist in the sport. It was her fourth Olympic medal, three of which have been gold.
Back home in Carlsbad, Humphries rolled up to her home sitting on the back seat of a honking convertible, waving to the cheering crowd.
She hopped out of the car to offer up hugs and handshakes, only to remember she left her gold medal behind in the car.
"Wait a minute, be right back," Humphries told the crowd.
Humphries' most recent Olympic experience has a story of remarkable perseverance.
She previously competed for Team Canada before making allegations of abuse against a coach and joining Team USA. The case is still under investigation.
But before she could compete for Team USA, Humphries first had to become a U.S. citizen.
"I had a 1% chance of getting citizenship in time and making it happen. But I had to believe in that 1% chance," she said.
She became a citizen just months before the Beijing games.
"Trust me, there were plenty of times when I would sit in my house and think, ‘What if this doesn’t happen?’ and be so scared and fearful. But I had to forget about the fear and push that aside and continue to work," said Humphries
Back home after a 17-hour flight from Beijing, Humphries took the time to pose for pictures and sign autographs.
"At the end of the day, great things are not without sacrifice and dedication and hard work. So I think, if anything, I just want people to not give up on their goals and dreams and regardless of what happens in life to continue to work toward what makes them happy and what they’re passionate about and that’s what I’ve always tried to do," she said.
Humphries says she’ll decompress for a few months and and then ramp up competition. The 36-year-old said she isn't done sliding for gold on the world's biggest stage.
"I’m not done competing. I want to go back to another Games for Team USA, so the plan is to compete and be there again in 2026. We’ll take it step-by-step, year-by-year, but the plan is to head back in 2026," said Humphries.