Olympic gold medal­ist Fran­cia thanks fire com­pany

Times Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - By Jar­reau Free­man

Af­ter win­ning gold at the 2012 Lon­don Olympics, Su­san Fran­cia may be tak­ing a rest from row­ing, but she’s still on the move.

A na­tive of Abing­ton Town­ship, Fran­cia re­cently re­turned home for a visit af­ter a vic­to­ri­ous two weeks at the Lon­don Olympics. Fran­cia, who is a two-time Olympic cham­pion, paid a visit to the McKin­ley Fire Com­pany in Elkins Park Aug. 23 to thank those there for sup­port­ing her while she was com­pet­ing.

Sev­eral mem­bers of the fire com­pany know Fran­cia and en­cour­aged the com­pany to cre­ate aware­ness that “one of their own” was com­pet­ing in the Olympics, McKin­ley Fire Chief Gre­gory Breyer said. That led to putting up a sign to rec­og­nize her vic­tory.

In front of the fire sta­tion there’s a sign that reads: “Con­grat­u­la­tions Su­san, Gold Medal Olympian — USA Row­ing Lon­don 2012.”

“I have a sign out there,” Fran­cia said. “You can’t get much big­ger than that.”

As a ges­ture of thanks to the fire com­pany Fran­cia gave the fire depart­ment an of­fi­cial Lon­don Olympics 2012 base­ball cap and signed her name to it.

McKin­ley Fire Com­pany Pres­i­dent Paul Con­roy said it was awe­some that Fran­cia came to visit them and that he was very proud of all she has ac­com­plished.

Dur­ing her visit, Fran­cia posed for pic­tures with mem­bers of the fire depart­ment, tried on an of­fi­cial fire­man’s uni­form and sat in a firetruck. She even showed off her Olympic gold medal while shar­ing sto­ries about meet­ing Paul McCart­ney, pro wrestler Dwayne John­son, bet­ter known as The Rock, and de­scrib­ing the clos­ing cer­e­monies.

“I missed the open­ing cer­e­mony, be­cause I had to race the next day, so I watched it on TV like ev­ery­one else and went to bed early,” she said. “But the clos­ing cer­e­mony was like this awe­some concert. Ge­orge Michael per­formed and he was only a few feet away from where I was. The Spice Girls per­formed too.”

Fran­cia who grad­u­ated from Abing­ton Se­nior High School in 2000, said it’s been great to be back in her home­town.

Since she’s been home, Fran­cia said she’s been re­lax­ing, catch­ing up on sleep and even took a trip to the pool with her par­ents to swim. She said she’s also been en­joy­ing eat­ing “good nor­mal food.”

“When I came home, I just needed some raw veg­eta­bles,” Fran­cia said. “In the [Olympic] vil­lage [where I stayed] there was a McDon­ald’s and it was free for us. At 2 a.m. we [the team] would get McDon­ald’s.”

The best part about be­ing home, Fran­cia said, has been see­ing how ex­cited ev­ery­one has been to see her and the medal.

“The big­gest joy for me has been see­ing other peo­ple’s joy,” she said.

When asked if she will be gear­ing up to train for the 2016 Rio Olympics, she said she was not sure. Fran­cia said four years is a long time away and that when she trains she has to give 100 per­cent and doesn’t have time for much else.

How­ever, Fran­cia said she is gear­ing up to head to Cal­i­for­nia for a week to coach at a chil­dren’s row­ing club, be­fore mak­ing her way back to the East Cost to do some PR work.

Breyer said it was “ab­so­lutely in­spir­ing” watch­ing the Olympics and know­ing some­one from his home­town had won a gold medal.

“[She’s] in­spir­ing to kids who grew hear­ing that you can do any­thing you put your mind to,” he said. “[Fran­cia] is liv­ing proof of that.”

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