GREENVILLE - A class act back from London, 22-year-old Lauren Perdue spent her first full day home in Greenville Wednesday, ready for relaxation after winning gold.
"It's an amazing feeling," said Perdue in an interview Wednesday morning. "It's been a dream of mine since I was eight years old. To be able to bring back gold for Greenville, North Carolina, it's incredible."
Perdue was part of the winning U.S. 4 X 200 Freestyle Relay team. She said the moment her teammates came in first was breathtaking.
"I remember after they touched the wall and I realized we had won, all of my friends around me just came up and gave me a hug," Perdue said with her gold medal around her neck. "[They] said, 'you're a gold medalist, Lauren!' And that was just really when it hit me."
The senior at the University of Virginia made headlines outside the pool, when she turned down NBA star Lebron James' dinner invitation at the Olympic dining hall. Perdue stressed it was not a snub, and she hopes to see James again.
"It's funny to me how it got blown up so big," Perdue laughed. "He said, 'it's nice to meet you, would you like to come join me in the dining hall?' Unfortunately, I'm one who sticks to the rules and sticks to curfew. And I didn't want to step over any boundaries there. So I had to decline his invitation."
The hometown hero was featured in the U.S. Swim Team's "Call Me Maybe" video, a YouTube parody of pop singer Carly Rae Jepsen's hit single. Perdue said a scene where she dances down the aisle of a crowded plane was filled with teammates who were all in on the act.
"It was swim team plane... a charter plane. So no random people there, but you know, that probably would have been even funnier."
Perdue said it was remarkable that she made the Olympic team, just four months after major back surgery.
"It's still really surreal. I have to thank God for that... I really think it's probably a God miracle there."
The Olympian says her London gold won't be the last medal we see. She is setting her sights on leading the U.V.A. swim team for her senior year, and then will look to the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in 2016.
Perdue will enjoy some rest and relaxation with her family along the Crystal Coast of North Carolina. She will then head back to U.V.A. in Charlottesville, where she will study for her degree in anthropology.