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Welcome home: Olympic gold medalist Anastasija Zolotic greeted with cheers, applause

The Largo native won the United States' first gold medal in women's taekwondo over the weekend.

TAMPA, Fla. — The journey back to Tampa Bay from the Tokyo Olympics was long, though the memories Anastasija Zolotic made likely will last a lifetime.

She has a gold medal in taekwondo to prove it.

The 18-year-old from Largo arrived late Tuesday in Tampa International Airport, where her biggest fans — friends, family and fellow students — lined up in the terminal to welcome her home.

"It finally feels like I just won the Olympic gold," Zolotic said. "I know I said before, it doesn't feel like it just because we're away from everybody and...it's a closed competition." 

"But, God, seeing everybody, it's unreal now."

RELATED: Largo's own Anastasija Zolotic becomes 1st American to win gold in women's taekwondo

Zolotic won the United States' first gold medal in women's taekwondo over the weekend by beating Russian athlete Tatiana Minina 25-17 to claim the featherweight division title.

She took up taekwondo at the age of 5 and started winning tournaments not long thereafter. Zolotic won six U.S. Opens as a junior and senior fighter before qualifying for Team USA Olympics last spring.

Getting to the games always was a lifelong goal, Zolotic told 10 Tampa Bay earlier this year.

RELATED: Largo native preps for top taekwondo competition at Tokyo Games

“I always was telling everybody, ‘Yeah, I’m going to the Olympics’. Always. Whether it was in taekwondo or something else. I was always going to end up at the Olympics because that’s what I wanted,” Zolotic said.

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