HAMPDEN, Maine — Cailynn Goss was moved to tears Wednesday afternoon when her motorcade of Hampden police and fire vehicles turned from Main Road onto Kennebec Road.
As she neared her home, a long line of well-wishers holding handmade signs and balloons erupted in wild cheering.
Despite short notice, about 70 people gathered at her family’s home to celebrate the 22-year-old’s triumphant return from Athens, Greece, where she has been since mid-June.
A member of Special Olympics Team USA, Goss took the gold medal in the 50-meter women’s butterfly on Sunday in 1 minute, 4.12 seconds. Earlier in the week, she was on the team that won the bronze in the 4×50-meter medley relay in a men’s and women’s mixed division with a time of 3:35.88 and won a fourth place ribbon in the 100-meter freestyle.
As she stepped out of the car, she was swarmed by family members and friends who wanted to hug her, kiss her, shake her hand or admire her new bling. She was handed a bouquet of flowers.
“I was shocked to see all the people who came to welcome me home. Happy people,” she later said.
Goss said winning was hard work.
“I would race every day and I would have prelims and finals. It was busy,” she said. “When I hit the water, I was swimming my hardest and kicking my hardest and racing my hardest. … I just went there to bring home a medal and there it is.”
Her parents, Ray and Tina Goss, joined her in Greece for the last 11 days and got to watch their daughter’s world win.
“It was amazing to be part of that. It was a big day for us,” she said.
Tina Goss said her daughter has been swimming since the age of 2, when she began private lessons.
Andrea Lee, a Special Olympics volunteer, served as Goss’ trainer. Though she couldn’t be in Greece for the Olympics, she followed Goss’ process through the world competition’s Facebook page.
She said Goss worked hard to earn her medal, swimming her heart out at pools in Hampden and Bangor, losing 20 pounds in the process and gaining strength, speed and endurance.
“It was a pleasure coaching her. She is just an outstanding human being,” Lee said.
By profession, Lee is an adaptive sports teacher. When three of Goss’ friends who are former students teased her about how they used to complain about how hard she worked them, Lee said, “But look at the results!”
Goss said her medals will be displayed on a wall in the Goss family home and that her mother planned to make a scrapbook to hold photos and mementos from her first trip to the world contest and perhaps not her last. She hopes to compete in other events, including equestrian events, soccer and cheering, in the future.