"I'm really happy to be home," Olympic figure skater Bradie Tennell said as she received a rousing welcome Saturday from Carpentersville firefighters and community members.
Tennell was the highlight of Saturday's Thom McNamee Memorial St. Patrick's Day Parade in East Dundee, where she rode on a Carpentersville fire truck along with family and friends.
"It's been an amazing experience being in the (Olympic) Village, but there's no place like home," the 20-year-old said.
A hometown hero, Tennell earned a bronze medal as part of the team event during last month's 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
"Receiving my medal was the best moment," Tennell said. "That was a crazy experience. The whole experience was so much fun. There's nothing else like it. You work your entire life for just a single moment like that."
After a couple of rough seasons due to injuries, Tennell earned her Olympic shot with a surprising win at the 2018 U.S. national championship, having competed before in only one Grand Prix event, Skate America 2017.
Krista Ruston of East Dundee said her family loved watching Tennell perform in the Olympics, especially her "Cinderella" program, which also won her the national title. She said getting to see Tennell in person during the parade was a special treat for her family, especially her 4-year-old daughter Isabella, who just started ice skating herself.
"It was kind of fun seeing her just now," Ruston said. "She's a local celebrity."
Tennell's Olympic debut wasn't entirely flawless. She fell during her opening jump combination in the women's short program -- a rare mistake for the reigning U.S. champion.
Yet, Tennell wasn't the only one to stumble. Fellow Team USA skaters Mirai Nagasu and Karen Chen also fumbled in their performances.
"Overall, I'm really proud of how I skated," Tennell said. "It was my first big world competition. Obviously, I'm disappointed that I fell. We are all human. We all make mistakes and it's important to get up and learn from those experiences."
Tennell already has begun training for her next competition -- the 2018 World Figure Skating Championships, March 21-25 in Milan, Italy -- at her home rink, the Twin Rinks Ice Pavilion in Buffalo Grove. She leaves for Europe in a week.
"I'm excited to experience my first world championship," she said.