Marissa Castelli’s Olympic journey took her to places she’d only dreamed of. On Monday, the Cranston native was grateful that it brought her home.
After a 24-hour trip that capped the busiest two weeks of her life, Castelli walked onto the ice at Providence College’s Schneider Arena for a homecoming celebration. Bronze medal draped around her neck, Castelli finally got a chance to soak in the warmth she’d only heard about from afar.
“It was just amazing,” Castelli said. “I didn’t think this many people would come out. I’ve been getting so many nice messages. I haven’t been able to respond to everyone, but they’ve been so supportive. It’s just been wonderful.”
Hundreds of fans turned out for the event, which was coordinated by WJAR-TV and emceed by the station’s sports director, Frank Carpano. Cranston High School West, Castelli’s alma mater, brought two buses worth of Falconettes, Westernettes, cheerleaders and band members, while young skaters from clubs around the state, including Warwick Figure Skaters, put on a brief show and showered Castelli with flowers. In between video tributes, Carpano delivered a citation from Governor Lincoln Chafee, and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung presented Castelli with a key to the city.
For Marissa and her family – father Tony, mother Lori and older brother Anthony – it was a night to savor.
“It’s unbelievable,” Tony Castelli said. “We’d like to thank everybody for all the support the last few weeks. They all helped make a dream come true.”
Castelli and her pairs figure skating partner Simon Shnapir have been pinching themselves since January, when they won their second consecutive U.S. Figure Skating championship and earned a spot on the Olympic team. In Sochi, they helped Team USA win a bronze medal in the new figure skating team competition then delivered personal bests on their way to a strong showing in the pairs event.
Standing on the podium was the moment she’ll never forget.
“I can’t even describe it,” she said. “I just wanted to cry. It’s something we never dreamed of happening. Going to the Olympics, our expectations weren’t high. Being part of the team event really gave us a chance to get a medal. It’s amazing to be calling ourselves bronze medalists. I can’t even put it into words.”
Tony, Lori and Anthony made the trip to Sochi and were in the stands every step of the way. After a quick trip to Moscow, they returned home last week, with enough memories to last a lifetime.
“This last month, it’s just hitting us what went on,” Tony said. “Just to make the Olympics was unbelievable. Then to get there and win a medal was incredible. It was a great trip overall. We had a lot of fun.”
When their competitions were over, Marissa and her teammates went all in on the Olympic experience, watching snowboarding, skiing and bobsledding. She told the crowd Monday that the connections she made with fellow Olympians are what she’ll remember most.
Castelli and Shnapir attended the closing ceremonies and went straight to the airport, leaving Russia on Monday morning, around 4 a.m. Sochi time, when it was still Sunday evening back home. After stops in Frankfurt, Germany and Washington, D.C., their flight touched down in Boston Monday afternoon.
“It was a crazy trip,” Castelli said.
Though she admitted she was exhausted – “I just can’t wait to get a full night of sleep,” she said – she wouldn’t have missed the chance for a welcome home.
From T-Shirts that raised funds to offset the family’s travel costs to the signs hanging at Cranston West to the messages pouring into her Twitter account, the support was overwhelming.
Sharing her Olympic moment with the hometown crowd was special.
“It’s just amazing to come home and bring a medal home for Rhode Island,” Castelli said.
Fung expressed Cranston’s pride and was honored to present the ceremonial key to the city.
“Your hometown of Cranston and your state of Rhode Island will always be here to welcome you home,” he said.
While Monday marked the end of the Olympic whirlwind, a different one was set to begin Tuesday. Castelli was planning to be on the ice around noon in Boston as training begins for next month’s World Championships in Japan – and beyond.
The next Olympics are only four years away.
“They say you don’t know how strong you are until you have to be strong,” Castelli said. “We definitely had to be strong the last year or two and it’s really paid off. We’re not done yet. We haven’t hit our peak yet. We’re ready to do more.”