John Magalotti of Juneau was pretty excited when he snowboarded across the finish line at the 2001 Special Olympics World Winter Games and claimed a gold medal. But the victory won't go down as his favorite memory.
Meeting film star Arnold Schwarzenegger beat winning Olympic gold at the games, which ended in Anchorage on Sunday.
"The first time I saw him I froze. The second time, I said something - I said hello," said Magalotti, 19. "Everybody says he's really tall, but he's not. He's real short."
Magalotti and five other local athletes who competed in the World Games were met at the Juneau Airport on Monday by about 20 people who whooped it up when the Olympians entered the terminal. The athletes came home laden with gold, silver and bronze medals and ribbons - testaments to their triumphs in snowboarding, skiing and snowshoeing.
When Niall Bo Johnson won his first medal on the slopes, he did not hide his excitement.
"It was cool. I was doing 360s down the hill," said Johnson, 24, who won a gold and two bronze medals in snowboarding competitions.
"I was extremely happy," said alpine skier Carl Behnert, 22, who claimed gold and silver medals in two events. "I never got a gold before skiing. It's my first time."
Other competitors included Sara Muehlberg, 23, who won a gold medal in the 800-meter snowshoeing race; Evvanne Menefee, 14, who claimed two bronze medals in snowshoeing events; and Justin Roberts, 19, who won two bronze medals in alpine skiing events. Magalotti, the snowboarder, also won a silver medal in advanced slalom snowboarding in addition to his gold medal.
Magalotti said one of the best things about the experience was meeting athletes from other nations.
"I met people from Japan, Germany, Russian, China, Israel, Egypt, South Africa," said Johnson of the event, which drew 2,400 athletes from 69 countries. "It's just amazing how many people came."
Kathy Dye can be reached at email@example.com.