Dubuque proudly welcomes home bronze medalist Kayla Banwarth - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque proudly welcomes home bronze medalist Kayla Banwarth

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

Hundreds, perhaps even thousands, filled Courtside Bar and Grill in Dubuque Thursday night to meet Dubuque's first ever female Olympic medalist, Kayla Banwarth.

Among those visitors, Dubuque's Mayor Roy Buol, who proclaimed that Aug. 25, 2016 is officially Kayla Banwarth Day in Dubuque.

Banwarth and her family had no idea so many people would show up.

"This has been really overwhelming. And honestly I wasn't expecting this big of a turnout. So to know that they've been supporting me through this whole thing has been really special," she said.

Banwarth signed autographs, took pictures and talked with everyone who wanted a minute with Dubuque's first Olympic medalist in nearly 90 years.

Among them, 11-year-old Delanie Wright, who said watching Banwarth has inspired her to become an Olympian.  She knows, though, to do it, she'll need to practice, she said.

The visit is part of a whirlwind last couple of weeks that saw the U.S. drop a heart-breaker in the semifinals to Serbia, then bounce back two days later to beat the Netherlands in the bronze medal game.

"It was exciting, and stressful. But mostly really fun. It was a blast to be around that atmosphere and to be able to compete on a world stage was awesome," Banwarth said.

As disappointing as not winning the gold was, Banwarth says she's learned a very valuable lesson lately--medals don't define her.  She told that to the rapt audience during a 20 minute question and answer session that covered everything from the athlete's village, to her interactions with her coach.

As for what's next for Banwarth?

"I don't know," she said. "I'm going to take some time to reflect and figure out where I go from here."

She said she hasn't ruled out playing in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, but hasn't committed to them either.

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