Jade Carey will soon be a college freshman at Oregon State University, taking classes, enjoying the autumn of the Pacific Northwest and practicing and competing with her gymnastics teammates.
She leaves for school on Sept. 1.
But first, two nights to be celebrated and honored for winning a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, where Carey rebounded from tripping in the vault final and finishing in eighth place to the floor exercise routine of her life that earned her gold in that event.
Tuesday night at Arizona Sunrays Gymnastics & Dance Center in Phoenix, where Carey has trained for four years, local leaders and Sunrays staff members spoke to a crowd of young gymnasts, parents and invited community members about Carey's resiliency in winning the large disc she wore around her neck.
Another celebration is scheduled for Thursday at the training center where her mother works, USA Youth Fitness Center in Gilbert.
Olympic gold medalist Jade Carey poses with her gold medal during a ceremony in her honor at Arizona Sunrays Gymnastics Center Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021 in Phoenix.
"This means everything to me. It means a lot that all of Arizona is supporting me, and I'm just really thankful that everyone is here to give me love and support, and it's really such an honor to have Jade Carey Day," the 21-year-old from Phoenix said as a line snaked out the door to a room at Arizona Sunrays, filled with fans waiting in the twilight for a chance to take a photo with Carey.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego was first to speak, proclaiming Aug. 17 Jade Carey Day in the city. Then came Tempe vice mayor Randy Keating, who proclaimed it Jade Carey Recognition Day in that community.
"The city of Phoenix gets our name from a bird that rose from the ashes, and the hope was that people from here would rise from tough circumstances to flourish, and Jade, you have done just that and made this community proud," Gallego said, with Carey looking on from a seat on stage wearing a white Team USA Olympic T-shirt and a mask.
"Thank you for making us feel good about Arizona sports," Keating said.
Carey then received a framed Arizona state flag, one that has flown over the state Capitol. Then, the announcement that her locker at Arizona Sunrays would be retired, and a gold necklace to continue a Sunrays tradition of honoring a college-bound athlete.
With each award came cheers from the crowd of onlookers, some in purple T-shirts with Carey's name and that of training partner Riley McCusker, who just missed making the Olympic team.
Gymnastics Olympic gold medal winner Jade Carey is greeted by hundreds of adoring fans at Arizona Sunrays Gymnastics Center Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021 in Phoenix.
Carey thanked the crowd. After graduating from high school in 2018, she deferred enrollment at Oregon State to spend the next year training for the Olympics. When those were pushed back from 2020 to 2021, Carey postponed her enrollment again for 2020 and set her sights on Tokyo for another year.
"It definitely has not been easy," she said. "But you all make it easier, and I just can't thank you enough.
"It just feels so surreal and I'm just really proud of this accomplishment," Carey said.
Carey's father and coach, Brian Carey, said he couldn't find the words to express how proud he is of his daughter.
When Simone Biles pulled out of the vault, Carey was expected to win, her father said. "The ultimate low for her to the ultimate high in 24 hours," Brian Carey said.
Sitting in the Tokyo training gym the morning after the vault mishap, Brian told Jade, "I know you feel like yesterday was the worst day of your life, but today can be your best. So let's get after it."
That night, Jade Carey won gold.
Next for Carey is college, where she plans to major in kinesiology, and competing for the Beavers. There remains a chance she could join other Olympic and top college gymnasts past and present on the Gold Over America exhibition tour, which travels to 35 cities in the United States and features Simone Biles.
Carey hasn't been officially announced as a tour participant, which opens Sept. 21 in Tucson then heads to Glendale on Sept. 22. If she chooses, Carey can potentially take advantage of name, likeness and image rules adopted by the NCAA to allow her to profit from tour appearances.
Get in touch with Jose Romero at Jose.Romero@gannett.com. Find him on Twitter at @romerojosem.