It was easy to spot Emily Clark as she arrived at the Saskatoon airport.
The Olympian was proudly sporting her Team Canada toque and jacket, with the silver medal she won in women’s hockey around her neck.
The medal still carried an emotional weight for the 23-year-old, whose hope of winning gold at her first winter games was crushed in a shootout against Team USA.
“After you saw the last attempt get stopped, it almost doesn’t feel real, especially in the fashion that the game ended,” she said Tuesday. “But having some time to reflect, I’m very proud of this silver medal.”
And Canada is proud of Clark, who has worked her way from playing minor hockey in Saskatoon, to university hockey in Wisconsin and now coming home with a piece of Olympic hardware.
As for achieving personal goals on the world stage, Clark was still feeling good about scoring her first Olympic goal in the semi-final against the Russians.
“Not many people know, but all season long I was struggling in the scoring department,” she said.
“Seeing that puck hit the back of the net on the OIympic stage – I’ll never forget that!”
It’s a moment Clark’s mom, Tracy, was proud to witness from the stands in South Korea.
“Big tears and high fives and just elation – because I know she had been working really hard and was finally rewarded.”
Tracy arrived back from Pyeongchang a day before Emily, and was with family, friends and a few strangers to welcome her home with signs at the airport.
Aside from watching her daughter play, Tracy said she enjoyed the entire Olympic experience – even becoming a “minor celebrity” as everyone wanted a photo with Canadians.
“It’s a beautiful, welcoming city. The people were wonderful,” Tracy said.
“I’ve watched the Olympics for years on TV and to actually see the athletes, see the venues, the (athlete’s) village – it’s just, a bucket-list trip.”
While Tracy, her husband Dell and two of Emily’s five siblings could make the trip, the rest of Saskatchewan was cheering from the couch.
Among those who watched all of Clark’s games was Saskatoon minor hockey coach E.J. Babey, who has seen the player work with young girls on the ice at home.
“She’s exactly what we hope that our daughters can be when they grow up as a person that plays hockey,” Babey said. “Hard work, dedication, loyalty – that’s what (Clark) displays in her daily life.”
Babey’s 11-year-old daughter, Sage, plays with the Saskatoon Comet Hurricanes and was quick to share why she needed to be at the airport.
“She’s a great person and she’s really good at hockey,” Sage said. “I’m proud of her.”
Sage wasn’t the only one who missed class for the big arrival. Nine-year-old Brynn Bonygne was waiting nervously to meet Clark, who she also happens to be writing about for a class project.
“She’s the only Olympic hockey player that’s from Saskatoon and I think that’s pretty cool,” she said.
Bonygne not only met her hero, she also had her report signed and tried on Clark’s silver medal.
It was a moment highlighting the next big job for the Olympian: role model.
“The impact you have on others will last far longer than what people will remember in the scores and results,” Clark said.
“That’s what’s it’s all about – being able to inspire those guys and for them to take off school and be here when I walked through those gates was really special.”
As for what’s next, Clark said she’ll be taking some much-needed time with family before finishing her final year playing for the University of Wisconsin.
She wants to join a professional team in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, with the goal of being on Team Canada in the 2022 Beijing winter games.