16-year-old Virginia Wade's smile beat her up the escalator at Sea-Tac Airport.
"Look at all the medals!" her dad Alex cheered as she met him for a long-awaited hug. "Welcome home."
For the past two weeks Wade has been taking part in the 2017 Special Olympics Winter World Games in Austria. She's one of just four from Washington to compete in the games, which included 2,700 athletes from more than 110 countries. Wade represented Team USA in alpine skiing and placed fourth and fifth in her events, a huge accomplishment considering this is her very first games.
"My favorite part was skiing really fast," she said.
Her mom Amy Martin made the trip with Wade's two younger brothers.
"She received the first award of the games to the United States, because it just so happened that her event was announced first. And so she was the first American on the podium," Martin said.
"It's huge. It's not just a community, but it's sort of a recognition that she has abilities, she is a competitor. She's an athlete," said Alex Wade.
But the games aren't just about the competition, at least not for this family. They're about opportunity, growth, and letting go...a little.
"We had one afternoon where we went out and skied with her, but pretty much the entire Olympic time she was independent," said Martin. "She just grew in confidence and grew in maturity, and now she has friends all over the world. It's really, really amazing."
16.58 "It was super fun," said Virginia Wade.
She loves competing, but make no mistake about it, she's happy to be home sleeping in her own bed, hanging out with friends, and just relaxing. It might just be time for her to whip up a special batch of her chocolate chip cookies.