IRON RIVER, Mich. – A 40-year-old snowboarder who won a gold medal at the Winter Olympics was honored Monday with a parade in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Nick Baumgartner walked the streets of Iron River, population 2,800, with the medal around his neck and his dog at his side, punching the air with his fist as people screamed for the hometown hero.
Baumgartner and partner Lindsey Jacobellis won gold in mixed snowboardcross, an event where snowboarders raced through an obstacle course.
"This is a 17-year journey, and there’s many times I could have given up, and I think a lot of people would have, and I hope that this story shows people that you need to keep fighting," Baumgartner said Sunday after arriving at a Wisconsin airport.
An enormous dump truck led the parade with a sign that said, “Welcome Home Nick! Once a Wykon, always a Wykon.” It's a reference to a three-legged creature that is the mascot at West Iron County High School.
Area students were released early from schools to prepare for the event. Anyone could participate in the line of vehicles if they could get to the post office after 3 p.m. Police car lights flashed and fire truck sirens wailed.
Baumgartner, who played football at Northern Michigan University, has a wide following because of his age — the oldest snowboarder to win a medal — positive attitude and determination to win in Beijing.