FAIRBANKS -- Melissa Mulloy missed the first two and one-half weeks of school at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, but she had a good excuse.
She was representing the United States at the Olympic Games in Sydney, where she made the finals in the small-bore rifle 50-meter three-position shoot.
The 22-year-old Mulloy returned home early Monday. She's preparing to return to classes at UAF and to her slot on the two-time defending national champion Nanooks rifle team.
"I went in my dorm, and I don't know anyone there yet," Mulloy said. "I think they were wondering who I was and if I belonged there."
Mulloy was back at the UAF rifle range Monday afternoon, introducing herself to some new members of the rifle team and firing a few shots.
But she won't be doing much shooting over the next few weeks. The biology and business major says she's planning to catch up with her classwork.
A big welcome home banner and a small group of people were on hand to greet Mulloy when she arrived at Fairbanks International Airport at 1:38 a.m. Monday.
Mulloy was the top shooter at Sydney after the prone and standing positions of qualifying. She was eighth overall after all three positions.
Mulloy could see her scores but didn't know where she stood in the standings until qualifying ended.
"We each had our own personal scoreboard that I could see and they had a big scoreboard with everybody on it that was behind us," Mulloy said. "I never looked at it. I didn't know I was leading."
With the qualifying round over, Mulloy sensed she had a chance to advance to the finals but had to wait for a few of the others competitors to finish before finding out for sure.
She made it -- by a single point over two other competitors.
"They got us off the range right away back in a room that was off-limits to reporters and everybody else," Mulloy said. "I think they were afraid if we stayed out there we would be attacked by the media.
"It took about a half-hour or 45 minutes before I found out I was going to the finals."
Media and thousands of spectators ringed the finals, but Mulloy said she didn't notice.
"I had a hat with blinders on the sides," she said. "I never saw any-thing. There were a lot more people and a lot more than I was used to and a lot of media running around."
Mulloy eventually finished without a medal.
Renat Mauer-Rozanska of Poland won the gold, Tatiana Goldobina of Russia won the silver and Maria Feklistova of Russia took the bronze.
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