When the McDonogh School year began Aug. 29, Ian Silverman was absent. But he had a good excuse.
Silverman, 16, a McDonogh junior and swimming star, who has a mild form of cerebral palsy in his calves, was in London, England, where he would win a gold medal on Sept. 5 in the Paralympic Games and set a world record.
For him, school finally began Wednesday, Sept. 12 and he did not want to be late.
But as he and his younger brother, Schuyler, drove to McDonogh, Schuyler Silverman, 15, suddenly insisted he had to go to the bathroom. They pulled up at a porta-potty — where Schuyler (pronounced Skylar) locked himself in and called his mother, Dawn, on his cell phone.
Ian Silverman was so angry that he almost left without Schuyler. But when they arrived at McDonogh's gatehouse, his anger turned to shock. Waiting there was a school golf cart, festooned with red, white and blue streamers.
Silverman's friend and junior class president Will Cosgarea drove him to the McDonogh quadrangle, where about 580 upper school students lined the quad, waving tiny flags and cheering as the golf cart cruised the circular drive.
It was the first event of its kind at McDonogh since 1978, when 16-year-old student Pam Shriver returned after losing to Chris Evert in the finals of the U.S. Open, said Laddie Levy, the school's tennis coach.
As if Silverman needed an introduction, Headmaster Charles Britton reintroduced him as "our own gold medalist."
"This is amazing," said his mom, a nurse, shaking her head as she stood in the crowd.
Silverman's swimming career may not be finished just yet, either. He didn't swim the minimum time needed to qualify for the 2012 Olympics, but he has the talent and "work ethic" to do it in 2016, noted Scott Ward, McDonogh's swim coach.
"He's definitely a unique and special individual," Ward said, noting Silverman was All-American as a sophomore, a rare feat, he said.
Silverman's disease, bilateral spasticity isn't noticeable, and he said he wants to continue competing against able-bodied Olympic hopefuls.