There is an old trophy with Brent Hayden's name on it in the display case just outside the pool at the Mission Leisure Centre.
It goes to the Mission Marlins Swim Club's Most Improved Boy, and Hayden won it twice, in 1991 and 1992.
Twenty years and two disappointing Olympic Games later, and with a raucous crowd of more than 200 watching his London race on an old projection screen in the leisure centre lobby - no 80-inch LCD TV here - Hayden became the Most Improved Man, finally earning an Olympic medal, a bronze in the 100-metre freestyle.
"Unbelief, disbelief, excitement, so proud of him," said his mom Marilyn, who watched the race at home before coming to the leisure centre with her husband, Chuck. "He's wanted this since Grade 3, now he's got it.
"I could see it in his face. This is the moment he's been waiting for forever. We're proud of him, all of Mission is proud. Everybody in Canada is proud of him."
The crowd in the leisure centre, from the youngest members of the swim club and their excited moms and dads to veteran firemen and a former Winter Olympic medalist from Mission, were beaming.
They showed up ready to scream and cheer and with hand-drawn signs urging their hometown hero to GO FOR GOLD and to DREAM BIG.
A couple carried big Canadian flags. Some, like 15-year-old swimmer, Kristiana Kamaeianis, had signs with the words "Mind, body, soul," the mantra Hayden learned from his karate sensei.
"I heard he did karate, so I thought I would try it out and see if it would help my swimming," said Kamaeianis. "He's a huge inspiration. All of the little swimmers here, they all want to be like him."
The crowd cheered raucously when Hayden, with his shaved head and multiple tattoos, first appeared on the screen, roared throughout the 47-second race and then erupted into chants of HAY-DEN, HAY-DEN when it was clear he had earned a medal.
That it was bronze, and not gold, didn't seem to matter.
"It would have been nice to get gold, but just to get a medal at the Olympics - he's third-best in the world, that's special," said Kyle Klenk, a 13-year-old swimmer.
"It gives all of us hope that we can do it one day just like he has.
"He let me wear his world [championships medal] from 2007. I have a lot of autographs from him. He always remembers his roots and comes back and helps out."
Mitch McCormack, who swam with Hayden as a kid and who then coached the Marlins, said the entire community is "really, really proud of him."
McCormack remembers Hayden as a pretty mellow, laid-back kid who won the club's comical, end-of-season Space Cadet and 'I don't know' awards a few times.
After Hayden finished 13th in his speciality at Athens and 11th in Beijing, McCormack says he wondered, like others, if Hayden, despite his win at the 2007 worlds, had enough intense inner fire to medal at the Olympics.
"Today, he put it all together when it mattered most . . . and it's part of his evolution. In the last year or so, he's become an uncle, become engaged. It's really very, very special."
Current coach Shannon Key, a 20-year-old who lives in nearby Agassiz, said the Olympic medal earned by an alumni of the swim club "means everything.
"These kids are behind Brent 110 per cent. Now that they've seen he can do it, they think they can do it. They see someone who was just like they are now and it does translate into the Olympic dream that everyone is looking for."
Key, like many in the crowd, was extremely nervous in the buildup to the race.
"But as soon as he was in the pool, we were just cheering so loud and couldn't stop until he touched the wall. As soon as we saw that three go up, everybody was jumping. I'm still shaking."
In the crowd at the leisure centre was Eden Donatelli, who won silver and bronze in short track speed skating in 1988 and who, like Hayden, is in the Mission Sports Hall of Fame with a plaque on the wall just down the hall from the lobby.
"It brought back such memories, that whole feeling and pride of being a Canadian," said Donatelli, whose three children, aged 11, nine and seven, speed skate and are also members of the Marlins.
"It's wonderful to see the kids here so inspired and see that a Mission kid can do this."
Her kids know of her exploits, she said, "but it's mom, it's not quite the same."
Hayden is the third Olympic medalist from Mission after Donatelli and swimmer Gary MacDonald, who won a relay medal in 1976.
"I think it's pretty incredible," said Donatelli. "We're not a big town, but we have big hearts and we can show the world that we know our stuff. It's important for kids from a small town to see that, that they can do big things.
"I knew about [MacDonald] when I was a kid and I used to go to the [B.C. Sports] Hall of Fame when it used to be at the PNE and I spent hours looking at all that stuff and getting inspired. To have that connection with Mission is huge."