TSA officers at Indiana’s Evansville Regional Airport (EVV) got the thrill of a lifetime. Jackie Young, whose 3x3 women’s basketball team won the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, was greeted by a large crowd of family, friends and fans after landing at EVV on her way to her hometown of Princeton, Indiana.
With her gold medal proudly around her neck, Young stopped outside the EVV security checkpoint for a quick photo op with TSA officers.
Young is a member of the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces after a three-year college playing career at Notre Dame where her team won the 2018 NCAA women’s college basketball championship.
Supervisory TSA Officer Joshua Payne described meeting Young and seeing her Olympic gold medal as “very surreal.”
“Seeing an Olympic gold medal was a very unique experience,” said Payne. “Only so many people have the opportunity to earn and wear the gold around their neck. Getting the opportunity to meet an Olympic gold medalist and see how humble she was was very rewarding.”
TSA Officer Arthur Koonce was awestruck, saying, “The Olympic gold medal is truly stunning to see. Jackie Young has been a local sports hero since she was in high school. What really makes me proud is her dedication, her family’s dedication and the sacrifices they made.”
Dozens of people welcomed Young back home at EVV with homemade signs and waving American flags.
Lead TSA Officer Genie Brooks was the brainchild behind the photo op.
“Once I heard [Officer] Mariah Wells talking about seeing Jackie getting off the American Airlines flight from Dallas, I knew I had to get a shot of her with our EVV-TSA team,” Brooks said. “An actual Olympic gold medal – that’s not something you see every day in Evansville, Indiana. Despite her long flight from Tokyo, she didn’t hesitate when I asked her to stop for a picture with our TSA officers.”
Lead TSA Officer Charles Neese, who has followed Young’s career, was among those excited to greet her and welcome her back home.
“As a high school student-athlete, she set multiple records for our school and the state of Indiana while maintaining a 4.0 [grade point average],” said Neese. “She understands teamwork and makes the women around her better. Her local community gathered to watch the [Olympic medal] games at the local theater – at 3:30 in the morning and again for the gold medal game at 7:30 in the morning. It was an amazing turnout!”
No doubt meeting this Olympic gold medal winner was a once-in-a-lifetime experience this group of excited TSA officers from the small airport in southwest Indiana will never forget.