Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Huge welcome in store for Olympic star

Soccer's Scott arrives home tonight

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Desiree Scott -- and her bronze medal from the London 2012 Olympics -- will be met with a celebration when she arrives in Winnipeg at 6 p.m. today.

It could be a big reception -- really big.

How big depends just how many wildly enthusiastic soccer fans want to welcome home Winnipeg's star holding midfielder, who kicked a French shot off her own goal line in a crucial moment of Canada's historic 1-0 bronze medal win last Thursday.

"We've been watching Twitter and we know that people have been tweeting out, so we do expect that there will be a big crowd to welcome Desiree home," said Christine Alongi, a spokeswoman for the James A. Richardson International Airport. "We're working closely with many different levels to make sure that her welcome is big," Alongi said.

Though Winnipeg has welcomed home many champions over the years, it could be the largest crowd to welcome a passenger home since the new airport opened. And Winnipeg has produced few, if any, soccer players who have achieved as much attention as Scott has on a world stage.

"This is the first time, of course, since we've opened the new terminal that the Olympics have been on," Alongi said. "First floor is arrival, and she's coming in domestic so she'll be coming down that grand staircase.

"We've had the Blue Bombers come back (after the Grey Cup), although they weren't winners, so we didn't have a huge crowd," Alongi said.

Visual display screens will flash Scott's name throughout the terminal building, and there will be "surprises" for people who come to help welcome Scott home.

"Anybody coming out, I think, will not only see Desiree, but probably get some promotional things," Alongi said.

Alongi could not say for sure who will be in the crowd to welcome the 25-year-old Olympian, but she said the Manitoba Soccer Association has contacted the airport on behalf of a number of Winnipeg soccer enthusiasts and organizations.

"They are wanting to, you know, give Desiree their best and cheer her on and see her come home," Alongi said -- people from the soccer community, the Winnipeg community in general, and those who followed the Olympics will "come out and be part of her homecoming."

Winnipeg will be one of five Canadian cities hosting the next women's World Cup in 2015.

Charlene Gusberti, Scott's mother, is planning a special get-together to celebrate the athlete's accomplishments.

"She's coming home to cake, celebration, and food and people coming over, a party with family and friends," Gusberti said, noting Scott's brother, Nick, will be making a poster to hold up when Scott gets off the plane. "Just my family alone is about 40," Gusberti said when asked how many people she anticipates will greet her daughter.

Gusberti can count in Walt McKee, too.

He was Scott's soccer coach when she played for the University of Manitoba Bisons from 2005 to 2010, and he has kept in touch with both Scott and her mother over the years.

"How did I feel?" McKee repeated after being asked about his reaction to Scott earning a bronze medal. "I felt proud," he said, considering the question for a moment before describing Scott as "deserving" of the success she has experienced in London.

"Oh, what you see on the field on television is the way she played for the Bisons every single weekend," McKee emphasized.

"She was always an outstanding player and she played hard all the time and it didn't matter if she was hurt or not, she'd still play."

Scott is coming home to Winnipeg on Air Canada flight 267.

Anyone who wants to welcome Scott home is encouraged to wait on the first floor of the James Richardson International Airport at 6 p.m. today. Parking will be available in the four-level parkade across from the terminal building.

If you're meeting someone else coming in on Air Canada 267, good luck.

Janine Hanson, Winnipeg's silver medal-winning member of the women's eight rowing team, is not expected back in Winnipeg until mid-September.

kristy.hoffman@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 13, 2012 A3

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