United States

US Water Polo Player, Newport Beach Native Injured in Balcony Accident Returns Home

USA Water Polo's Kaleigh Gilchrist returned home Tuesday to a surprise reception, as friends, teammates and family surprised the athlete injured in a balcony collapse in South Korea.

Gilchrist arrived to surprise hugs, cheers and a few tears. The water polo player said that she is grateful to get another chance to play with her team.

The team left Gilchrist in South Korea not knowing if or when she would return home. The women of USA Water Polo were a complete team again and preparing for yet another battle in the pool.

But Gilchrist will not join them in Peru for the Pan American games.

"These girls leave tomorrow for a tournament, and I don't get to go, and they'll be training for a couple months," Gilchrist said Tuesday. "It's tough, but fact there is still a chance is important."

Friday marked the third World Championship for the U.S. women, after an 11-6 rout of Spain. Then, it was time to celebrate. They ate Korean barbecue and ended up at a bar, where a balcony collapsed killing two people.

Gilchrist called her mother from the ambulance.

Within hours, teammates were asked to do a head count. Three had been injured and taken to the hospital, including Gilchrist.

The 27-year old Newport Beach woman expects to be on crutches for weeks. She says physical therapy could take months. But she vows to get back into the water.

It's what Gilchrist and her coach are preparing for -- a team that has a shot at gold again in the 2020 Olympics.

"Getting home was top priority, happy to be here," Gilchrist says. "People I love came and surprised me."

Next, she has a doctor's appointment Wednesday to learn more about her recovery.

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