RIO DE JANEIRO, BRASIL–At the 2016 Rio Olympics New Jersey is heavily represented with 35 USA team members hailing from the Garden State.
Of these Olympians a total of five were raised right here in Middlesex County. And two of them came back to New Jersey with medals.
Dagmara Wozniak, a fencer who won a bronze medal in the 2016 games hails from Avenel and currently lives in Hoboken. Originally born in Poland, Wozniak moved to New Jersey at the age of one.
She later attended Colonia High School and then went on to attend St. John’s University.
On August 28, Wozniak tweeted upon returning to her hometown: “I finally had time to sit down and take it all in. This has been quite the journey and I cannot thank everyone…”
But, Old Bridge gymnast Laurie Hernandez was the only New Jerseyan to bring home multiple medals, winning a gold and a silver medal.
One of the “Final Five” USA women’s gymnastics team that won gold, Hernandez was born right here in New Brunswick. She also recieved a silver medal for her performance on the balance beam.
Laurie, who is of Puerto Rican descent, is the first Latina to compete on the U.S Women’s gymnastics team since 1984.
Upon her return home, she was greeted with a huge parade in her honor that extended from Jonas Salk Middle School to the Carl Sandburg Middle School’s football field.
Showing her appreciation for the parade, on August 27, the young hero tweeted, “Thank you Old Bridge for hosting a parade for me today! The love and support from my town and NJ is amazing!”
Following her big Olympic win, Hernandez announced she will be participating in the next season of “Dancing with the Stars,” where she will be paired up with a professional dancer in televised competition.
But she wasn’t the only young woman born in a New Brunswick hospital to recieve a hero’s welcome upon returning to New Jersey.
Olympic runner Sydney McLaughlin resides in Dunellen, and she will be a senior at Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains this fall.
She’ll have plenty of stories to tell her classmates about how she spent her summer: competing for the U.S. Women’s track and field team in the 400-meter hurdles in Rio.
Sydney was the youngest member of the women’s track team since 1972.
Being the youngest member of the team in four decades definitely put some stress on the Olympic runner.
She admitted, “The first day, I got here and I had a nervous breakdown and I wasn’t going to run because I was just so nervous,” but her coaches pushed her past her nerves.
Following her return home, Syndey McLaughlin was honored at a huge event in Columbia Park where she was given the keys to her city.
Colton Brown, who calls Piscataway his hometown, is a judo athlete in the 2016 Olympic games.
Many of Colton’s classmates did not understand his extreme love for the sport.
As quoted in NJ.com, Colton Brown explained: “Even all the people who had known I had been doing judo for so long asked me, ‘Why do you keep doing this? I thought you were going to stop. I thought this was a local thing. You have to go to college now and be serious.’ But I had the Olympic dream.”