Back from the Olympics, Granite Bay native Haley Anderson popped in to Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, Roseville, on Thursday to show her silver medal to children and medical staff, sign autographs and pose for photos.
In London, Anderson took second place in the 10K marathon swim – an almost two-hour race in open water – which has been an Olympic event only twice, having begun in the Beijing Games in 2008. Anderson is the first American to bring home a medal in the event.
On Thursday, Anderson's medal passed through multiple hands, and she almost dropped it during a signature.
"Whoops," the swimmer said in the same tone a 20-year-old might use when dropping a notebook. Anderson said the medal stays in its box when she's not wearing it. She often put it away while walking through the hospital halls.
"My aunt said I had to wear it when I walked through her door," Anderson said.
Having flown back Monday, Anderson said she initially wanted to visit her aunts in the hospital – Kathleen and Jeanne Conry – who work as a medical nurse and the assistant physician in chief, respectively.
That visit became a chance to do something better, she said.
"It's really nice to be able to do something like this; they're all brave kids," Anderson said.
Standing in a roomful of eager onlookers, Anderson answered questions about why she started swimming and the experience of her first Olympics. A young boy also asked her about mobile phone games.
"My favorite is 'Angry Birds,' " Anderson said, "but I'm not very good at it and it just makes me angrier."
After her miniature news conference, Anderson met a 9-year-old girl named Samantha Dacong. Samantha is fighting bone cancer and had her right leg amputated a few weeks ago, her mother, Regina, said.
Anderson and Samantha talked about family, future dreams and the Olympics.
"My older sister swam, too, but she came home with a gold one of these," Anderson said, pointing to the medal. "Hers is much cooler."
Alyssa Anderson, 21, helped the American team win gold by swimming in a preliminary round for the 4x200-meter freestyle relay.
"I think any medal is pretty cool to have," Regina Dacong said. She said Samantha watched the Olympics with her father every day, paying special attention to swimming and track.
Samantha's new favorite Olympian? South African track star Oscar Pistorius – the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics.
Right now, Samantha, who is scheduled to get a prosthesis next month, said her goal is to outrun her father.
"That won't be too hard," her father, Steven, said with a smile.