Cheers, hugs as Olympic gold medalist returns home

Mike Bennett reports

- An Olympic gold medalist returned home to applause, cheers, and hugs  at Tampa International Airport this morning.  Melanie Margalis flew back from the Rio games, where she won a gold medal as part of a swimming relay team.

The St. Pete Aquatics Club was among those on hand to welcome her home.  The Clearwater native smiled and posed for photos with her gold medal after arriving at the airport.

Margalis, 26, is a Countryside High School graduate.  She majored in fashion merchandising at the University of Georgia while swimming her way into her first Olympics.

She just missed an individual medal, placing fourth in the 200-meter individual medley.  But she swam in one of the qualifying heats for the 4x200-meter freestyle relay, which qualified her for a gold medal when teammates Katie Ledecky, Allison Schmitt, Leah Smith and Maya DiRado placed first in the final.

"It was really exciting," she exclaimed.  "Just being on that relay for the U.S. is something I never thought would happen. So just being on it was such an honor.  And being on it with the girls that I was with, it was real exciting."

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