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Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky, US Olympians get heroes' welcomes

by Brooke Sassman / / Source: TODAY

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For Olympic athletes returning to the U.S. from Rio, there must be no better feeling than getting off the plane home with a medal in hand.

Unless, of course, you're greeted by family members...or a marching band.

Whether they grabbed gold or didn't medal at all, U.S. Olympians are being welcomed home in some of the sweetest and surprising ways possible.

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There were tiny (and I mean pint-size) moments ... like 23-time gold medalist Michael Phelps celebrating retirement by taking a swim with fiancee Nicole Johnson and 3-month-old son Boomer.

"There's nothing like being back home," Phelps Instagrammed. "Great way to spend my first day in retirement!!"

But for 19-year-old Katie Ledecky, there was practically an entire fan club waiting the moment she stepped foot in Maryland. She was instantly embraced by friends, family members and teammates.

They simply couldn't wait to celebrate Ledecky's big wins in Rio: four gold medals and one silver.

RELATED: Katie Ledecky on TODAY: Michael Phelps has had 'huge impact' on my career

As were fans in Houston, who welcomed swimmer Simone Manuel with hugs and... even a marching band!

RELATED: Swimmer Simone Manuel on making history: 'Hopefully it inspires others'

Manuel won gold in the 100m freestyle race, making her the first African-American woman to snag an individual medal in the event.

And although Missy Franklin missed the mark in Rio for her individual events, fans kindly planted words of encouragement in the front yard of her home.

RELATED: Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin: I'm turning pro

So, remind us exactly what we need to do to get one of those shiny medals?

(Dusting off my arm floaties as I wait for answers.)

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