If they awarded medals for class and modesty, Towson's Anita Nall would have added another gold yesterday.
Politicians, led by County Executive Roger B. Hayden, presented citations and proclamations for Anita and Jill K. Johnson, the Lutherville swimmer who remains in Spain for the Olympic closing ceremony. Mr. Hayden said yesterday's rally, held in the plaza of the Baltimore County Courts Building, gave the home folks a chance to welcome their champion.
Anita won the bronze in the 200-meter breaststroke; the silver, with the U.S. record, in the 100-meter; and the gold, with the world record, in the 400 medley relay.
During the rally, a smiling Anita rose to speak as the crowd roared approval. In her hand, she held a spray of red roses from Mr. Hayden.
"Hello to everyone," the 16-year-old Olympic swimmer called as the 1st Army Band from Fort Meade softly played the Olympic fanfare. "I'm happy to be back in Towson with my friends and family. I knew you were watching me -- and I was smiling back. I really was."
While Anita brought honor to the United States with her victories, the greatest part is that you let us feel a part of it. This is a lady with real class," said County Councilman Douglas Riley, R-4th, who represents Towson.
When the rally ended, well-wishers surged to envelop Anita, congratulating her and asking for autographs. Vinod Contractor, a recently naturalized American from India, who was on jury duty, got the first autograph.
"She was representing the United States of America, my country," said the Cockeysville resident. Although Ms. Johnson,
23, did not win any medals, the fact that she made the U.S. team earned her the gratitude of fellow Baltimore Countians.
Penny Johnson, her mother, held up her daughter's red-white-and-blue Cabbage Patch mascot doll and said she spoke by telephone to her daughter only an hour before the rally.
"She wants everyone to know how grateful she is to Baltimore County," Mrs. Johnson said.
Ms. Johnson, a Stanford University alumna, has been accepted at Boston University Law School and this week was offered a place at Duke University's law school.
"Now she has to make the choice," her father, Cal Johnson, said before the rally.
Artie Donovan, the Baltimore Colts Hall of Famer, stood beside Anita outside Mr. Hayden's office and growled in his still thick Bronx accent: "I've never been beside an Olympian before. It's wonderful."
Mr. Donovan told the crowd he watched Anita's races on television and marveled at "a lil' young girl that won three medals." He compared her achievement to another Baltimore sports legend: the Colts' sudden-death overtime victory over the New York Giants in 1958.
"When we came back, everybody in Baltimore knew who we were. But everybody in the world knows this lil' girl," he said.