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Watch family of hurt Team USA skier Nina O’Brien surprise her at airport

O’Brien's Olympic dreams were cut short after she broke her leg in a bad crash in the giant slalom at the Winter Olympics.
/ Source: TODAY

Team USA skier Nina O'Brien's family surprised her at the airport on her way home after a tragic crash in the giant slalom at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics left her out of the competition with a broken leg.

O'Brien had surgery in China before boarding a plane from Beijing to Tokyo then on to Texas. Her mother and boyfriend surprised her in Dallas and then rode back with her to Broomfield, Colorado.

As she was wheeled from customs, the sliding doors opened to reveal her mom, Dana, and boyfriend, Drew.

Skier Nina O’Brien is greeted by her mom and boyfriend in Dallas after returning to the United States from the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games.
Skier Nina O’Brien is greeted by her mom and boyfriend in Dallas after returning to the United States from the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games.Courtesy KUSA

“This is beyond anything I could have imagined or dreamed,” said O’Brien, 24, who’s originally from San Francisco and trains in Vail. “I don’t think anyone who’s ever broken their leg has had such a warm welcome home. It feels pretty amazing. I definitely feel lucky.”

More family and friends were waiting for her when she landed for good back in Colorado.

Nina O’Brien's family greeted her at the airport.
Nina O’Brien's family greeted her at the airport.Courtesy of KUSA

O'Brien then sat down with Denver NBC affiliate KUSA about her experience. She explained she had a compound fracture of her left tibia and fibula after the crash and her bone broke the skin.

“It looks kind of gruesome,” she told KUSA. “I was certainly feeling pretty low for a minute there, lying in China."

O'Brien crashed on the second run of the women's giant slalom during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games on Feb. 7, 2022.FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP via Getty Images

She said that returning home in a wheelchair "does not feel like real life," but the family surprise was a silver lining.

"It's kind of like mourning the end of one dream but I think this moment is just so unexpected...It makes me want to cry," she said, emotional. "This has been the best way to come home."

Speaking to TODAY on Feb. 9, she said that seeing her bone stick out through her ski sock had made her feel "a little bit sick" in the moment

She told TODAY that she was feeling "heartbroken."

"This isn't the way I dreamed my Olympics to go and I don't think it's how any athlete wants to end their Olympics," she said with a sigh, adding that she's been kept afloat by the support of her family, friends and fans.

In her posts from her hospital room in China, O’Brien kept encouraging her teammates from afar.

"The good news is that today is a new day — and I get to cheer on my teammates," she wrote in one post, with a photo of herself in a hospital bed. "Good luck to everyone competing and enjoy it."

In her interview on Friday, O’Brien echoed those sentiments and added that she never would have gotten this far without help from others.

"It took a village to get there and, I mean, now the village is bringing me home," she said.

Despite it all, O'Brien was still able to crack a joke:

"I brought the hardware home, just not the hardware we were dreaming of!"