She's a Dartmouth all-American athlete turned Olympian. And Wednesday Sophie Caldwell got the welcome home she's always dreamed of.
It was a small parade for a big accomplishment. Wednesday afternoon in Peru, all eyes were on the hometown hero Sophie Caldwell.
"I came here today because I love Sophie and I really, really want to be an Olympian someday," said Rowan Perry of Londonderry.
The big crowd turned out to welcome back the cross country skier after her Olympic debut in Sochi, where the 23-year-old had a strong 6th place finish in the freestyle sprint race. Caldwell's finish made history as the best-ever finish for an American woman in that event.
"I think it's amazing because she was a rookie and she made it to the Olympics," said Perry.
"She skied, at that point, probably the best race of her life. She had a little bad luck in the finals and so we'll never know, but she skied great, and that's all you can do. And you just ski your heart out and she skied well, and that was awesome," said Sophie's father Sverre Caldwell.
And for the first time since making history in Sochi, Caldwell is back home. She says getting the chance to compete in her first Olympics was mind-blowing.
"There's something special about coming from a small town like this. It's such a tight-knit community and they stand behind you through everything. And so coming back here has been really special," said Sophie Caldwell.
Caldwell wasn't the only Olympian at the parade. Bill Koch, who took home silver in Nordic skiing in the 1976 games, was also there. Caldwell says she always looked up to her fellow Peru resident growing up.
"I think it's cool for a kid to say like, ‘I grew up in the same town as that person', and I think it's really cool for a kid to say ‘I went for a ski with that person' or ‘that person had a conversation with me.' And I think that makes a huge difference. And so hopefully I can reach out and do that with as many of these kids as possible," Caldwell said.
From the sounds of the cheering kids and the signs in their hands -- it looks like she already is a hero.
"It says, 'You did it!' and 'I wish I was like you,'" said Summer Murphy of Weston as she read from the homemade sign she held.
Caldwell is back on the road Thursday, heading to Alaska for a race. As for another Olympic run, she says she is taking it one year at a time, but could definitely see herself going for it again.