SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – When Olympian Jake Ilardi arrived back home in Sarasota on Wednesday, he did what any skateboarder would do.
He hopped on his board and rode through baggage claim, much to the delight of fellow passengers.
After competing in Tokyo in the first-ever skateboarding event at the Olympics, the 24-year-old was happy to be home.
As he and his twin brother gathered the large pieces of luggage to bring to the car, Jake joked, “I left with one bag and came home with four.”
What the athlete didn’t know is that a surprise was waiting outside, a special someone from ‘Team Jake’ who couldn’t wait to see the Olympian.
When Jake walked out of the airport, his eyes lit up when he saw the woman who raised him, flowers in hand and beaming when she saw his white USA tracksuit. The moment brought tears to her eyes as her grandson stretched his arms out, wrapping them around her.
“I’m so proud of you,” she said into his shoulder while holding him tight.
Jake’s twin brother stood back a bit, videotaping the moment, also smiling. The two young men have been raised by their grandmother since they were seven years old.
“They are my heart and soul. They are such good boys, I am so lucky,” Paulette Moulon tells 8 On Your Side,
Jake said he couldn’t have gotten this far without the love and support from back home. He called the connection to the community a crucial part of the competition as family and friends cheered back home and he could feel their energy in Tokyo.
“A lot of us wouldn’t be here today without our families supporting us and helping us out along the way,” said Jake.
They say it takes a village to raise a child.
No one knows this better than the families of Olympians. They say their support system extends far beyond flesh and blood.
For Olympic athletes there’s the family you’re born into and the family you build along the way.
Just ask Jake, who felt the love from Florida and around the world.
“Everybody that set up the little watch party back home, all the fans watching around the world, it was super cool to see,” he said.
Another Bay area family cheering for their champion was also sending support from Sarasota.
Paige Dean and her husband are the proud parents of Olympic rower Clark Dean who competed Tuesday night with the support of the Dean Team.
“I would like to thank all of the coaches, all of the teammates, everyone that has Clark get to this point in his journey,” Clark’s proud father of the Sarasota Olympian told 8 On Your Side
“It’s a family,” said Paige Dean. “It really is a family.”