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US gymnasts react to 'overwhelming' fan support in touching homecoming on TODAY plaza

Welcome back! The women who brought home bronze, silver and gold for Team USA are now back home.
/ Source: TODAY

They’re back! After making Team USA fans proud with their medal-winning routines in Tokyo — and all the twists and turns they took along the way — the Olympians of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team are home again.

On Thursday, Simone Biles, Suni Lee, Jordan Chiles, Grace McCallum and Jade Carey joined us on TODAY for a fun and informative homecoming.

Welcome home to the women of the U.S. gymnastics team!
Welcome home to the women of the U.S. gymnastics team!Nathan Congleton / TODAY

The morning event kicked off with cheers and tears on the plaza as 18-year-old Lee, the standout star who took silver in the team event, bronze on the uneven bars and gold in the all-around, not only greeted TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb but also reunited with her whole family for the first time since the Games began.

But that emotional moment, which saw her place medals around her proud parents’ necks, was just the beginning.

The rest of the gang later joined Lee to share their perspectives on what it feels like to come home and to see (and hear) their fans for the first time since the spectator-free Games began.

"I feel very honored," Chiles, 20, said, "This is an amazing feeling, I’m happy to get back into the United States. It's something that we've all being waiting for."

Her teammates echoed that sentiment while pointing out that it's going to take some time to get used to their newfound fame.

"It's kind of weird walking around having people ask, 'Oh, are you Grace?'" 18-year-old McCallum noted.

Team USA gymnasts visited TODAY Thursday morning.
Team USA gymnasts visited TODAY Thursday morning.Nathan Congleton / TODAY

But it's not weird for one member of the pack. Simone Biles is an Olympic veteran, and during the visit, she offered some advice to the other women.

"I'm used to it, I feel like it's overwhelming," the 24-year-old said. "So just set your boundaries and stick with that."

And they're all likely to take that advice. After all, when the Olympians were asked about their own role models, the rest of the gymnasts pointed to Biles — and that's no surprise.

Simone Biles competes in the artistic gymnastics women's balance beam final of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo on August 3, 2021.Lionel Bonaventure / AFP via Getty Images

There's no one else in the sport who has the perspective of all the highs and lows that comes with gymnastics fame, especially after the Tokyo Games, where Biles had to withdraw from most of her events after suffering from "the twisties," when gymnasts get lost in the air in the middle of a skill, which can be highly dangerous.

"I’m still overwhelmed," Biles said about the unexpected turn of events. "But I truly believe everything is supposed to happen for a reason. Although it didn’t go as planned, the cards that I played with, I think it ended up better than expected."

That's certainly true for the one member the group who couldn't join TODAY Thursday — MyKayla Skinner, the gymnast who almost left Tokyo after initially failing to qualify for the individual vault final. But she made a silver-medal comeback when the event opened up to her after Biles withdrew from it.

Biles, who earned team silver and individual bronze on the balance beam at the 2020 Summer Games, postponed to 2021, has no regrets about stepping down from multiple events.

"I'll be forever grateful for that moment and everything that happened," she said on TODAY. "Because I’m back in one piece, I have a good head on my shoulders and I just feel fine."

Simone Biles didn't have the experience she expected in Tokyo, but that doesn't mean she has any regrets.
Simone Biles didn't have the experience she expected in Tokyo, but that doesn't mean she has any regrets.Nathan Congleton / TODAY

But being a voice of experience on Team USA doesn’t mean Biles hasn’t learned anything from the other women — if fact, she learned one tidbit from two of them right here on TODAY.

When Lee spoke about her trend-setting acrylic nails, which she’s since removed, she raved about the manicure, saying, “It helps me stay on the bars!” Chiles agreed, adding that having long nails makes "you think of your technique because if you fall, you’re going to break a nail.”

Biles appeared amused by the revelation, joking, "I guess that's where I went wrong the last couple of years.”

Now that the games are over for them, the women are looking ahead at what comes next, and McCallum already knows what’s on her horizon.

“I’m super excited to go to college,” she shared. “I’m excited for a whole new experience, a whole new journey.”