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Gold Medalist Given Triumphant Welcome by Md. Home Town

Olympic Champion Michael Phelps Wows Fans at 'Phelpstival'

By Neely Tucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 12, 2004; Page C01

TOWSON, Md., Sept. 11

Michael Phelps officially came home Saturday, and he was officially mobbed.

"WE LOVE YOU, MICHAEL!" teenage girls screamed, over and over again, as the Olympic champion's motorcade made its way through the streets of his suburban Baltimore home town. The grown-ups were only slightly more restrained.

Thousands of fans, many of them youngsters, line Michael Phelps's parade route in Towson, Md. (Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)

_____ Day 17 _____
A marathon assailant fails to spoil the last competition of the Games.
The Greeks led a celebration of an Olympics that at one point was almost taken away from them.
A brawl mars the finale of freestyle wrestling.
Boxer Andre Ward saves the U.S. team with a gold medal.
The South Korean gymnast who lost to Paul Hamm due to a scoring error goes to court.
Russian Alina Kabaeva wins the rhythmic all-around.
The Russia men's volleyball team beats the sluggish U.S. to win bronze, while Brazil wins gold.
The U.S. men's water polo team upsets Italy.

_____ More From The Post _____
Sally Jenkins: Let's give these Games a gold medal.
Mike Wise: Vanderlei de Lima finishes the marathon with heart.
Tom Shales: The Summer Games from Athens on NBC were not, for the most part, riveting, edge-of the-couch television.
Michael Phelps has experienced such a change, over so short a time.

_____ On Our Site _____
Athens Snippets: Fearing the worst, we get Greece's best.
Michael Phelps heads a list of multi-medalists.
Swimming is one of many sports in which records were set.
Doping cases at the Games.
Graphic: American Meb Keflezighi wins a surprising silver.

___ Sunday's Medals Results ___
Men's Marathon
48 Kg
54 Kg
60 Kg
69 Kg
81 Kg
Gymnastics (Rhythmic)
Men's Over 80kg
Women's Over 67kg
Team Handball
Water Polo
Wrestling (Freestyle)
Men's 60Kg
Men's 74Kg
Men's 96Kg

_____ Multimedia _____
Audio: Gold-medal winning athletes from the United States share their experiences.
Audio: American boxer Andre Ward discusses his journey to gold.
Audio: American Meb Keflezighi talks about his silver medal in the marathon.
Audio: The USOC is proud of the United States' medal haul.
Audio: Sprinter Justin Gatlin and the U.S. track and field team have a bright future.
Audio: IOC president Jacques Rogge formally closes the Athens Games.

_____ Photos _____
Day 17
Gold medal fans
Photo galleries page

"Thank you, thank you, thank you," Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley said during the hour-long ceremony on the Baltimore County courthouse steps that followed the parade.

"We love the way you comport yourself . . . with class and dignity," added Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R).

"He's always been special in our hearts, and I think now he's special in yours," Debbie Phelps, his mom, told the crowd.

The fans -- thousands of them -- roared in delight, basking in the feel-good moment of Towson's "Phelpstival" celebration.

On a day when the flags in the courthouse plaza flew at half-staff in memory of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Phelps's fans turned out in the morning sunshine to unleash their adoration on the 19-year-old in baggy shorts, sandals and shades.

It was an all-American event, with thousands of fans waving tiny U.S. flags, and it was an all-American moment for the local boy who not only made good but also tied an Olympic record by winning eight medals -- six of them gold -- in a single Olympics.

"It's great to be back here, in Towson, my home town," Phelps said in brief remarks from the stage.

What else was there really to say?

Phelps was the most celebrated U.S. athlete at the Athens Games, and little has changed in the weeks since. He's become the star of television commercials and print ads, and the centerpiece of a nationwide tour of swimming stars.

Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. said Phelps's name now stands alongside such Baltimore area sports heroes as former Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas and former Baltimore Orioles Cal Ripken Jr. and Brooks Robinson.

The ceremonies also took time to honor the victims and heroes of Sept. 11. Smith said Phelps embodies the hope and promise that sprang from the nation's response to that day.

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