Enthusiastic fans swept miniature American flags back and forth as the rhythm of the Olympic theme drew attention to three Bethesda Olympians perched beneath a crimson tent.
Community leaders honored three hometown U.S. Olympic team members — swimmer Katie Ledecky, kayaker Scott Parsons and rhythmic gymnast Julie Zetlin — with a public ceremony and outdoor concert Aug. 24 at the Bethesda Metro Center.
NBC-4 sports anchor Dan Hellie moderated the event, which was co-sponsored by the Bethesda Urban Partnership, the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center and Brookfield Properties.
Ledecky, a sophomore at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, sported the gold medal she won in the women’s 800m freestyle. At fifteen years old, she was the youngest member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team.
“I’ve lived in Bethesda my whole life, so for the community to share this moment with me means a lot,” she said.
The athletes received certificates of appreciation from the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce and the Montgomery County Council.
Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner talked about the ability of sporting events to unite a community in support of local athletes.
“We are all one in our respect for people who work so hard for so long,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Christopher Van Hollen presented the athletes with certificates from the U.S. Congress.
“So many people have gathered here today in front of us, boys and girls, who will be the future Olympians,” he said. “You have inspired them.”
Zetlin, who was a freshman at Whitman during the 2005-06 academic year before she was home-schooled, was the only American to compete in rhythmic gymnastics in London and the first American to qualify in her sport since 2004.
“I was just hoping to be a good ambassador for my sport,” she said. “I hope to set the trend of girls making the Olympics without gap years.”
As a kayaker in the slalom event, Parsons’ participation in London tallied his third Olympic run, having participated in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics as well. He moved to Bethesda after graduating from St. John’s Jesuit High School in Ohio in 1997 and trains on the Potomac River.
“It’s pretty awesome to have recognition from my hometown,” he said.
The athletes expressed their gratitude for community support before, during and after the Olympics.
“We could really hear your cheers in London,” Ledecky said during the ceremony. “You guys are the best.”