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Olympic Zone: Chattanooga Olympian's family celebrate with opening ceremony

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

The party has started in Rio, with the opening ceremony kicking off the 2016 Summer Olympics on Friday night.

Revelers from around the world gathered at Maracanã Stadium in Brazil to celebrate the start of the 31st Olympiad.

Chattanoogans will be cheering on former McCallie swimmer Sean Ryan as he goes after an Olympic medal.

Ryan has been chasing down a spot on the Olympic Team since he was 15 years old. He finally qualified last year, at age 23.

His mom, Margret, tells us it didn't feel real until Friday.

"I just started thinking about, you know, tonight, my son becomes an Olympian," she said. "He's worked so hard for it."

Friends and family in Chattanooga gathered on Friday night to watch the opening ceremonies, with Ryan's teammate, Michael Phelps, leading Team USA and carrying the American flag.

Ryan will compete in the Men's 10k Marathon in Open Water -- a grueling two-hour swim in the ocean.

"I don't think it will sink in until we actually watch him swim," said family friend Leslie Kniedler. "We're just glad that he's made it, because it's something that he really wanted to do."

It's been fun for friends to watch his journey.

READ MORE | McCallie grad to swim in Rio Olympics

"I think he realizes now he's an Olympian, but he doesn't wear it like a badge of honor," said Matthew Kniedler. "It's like him being an Eagle Scout. The point of being an Eagle Scout is just to hold that knowledge, not to wear it as a badge."

"He's made his dream," said Margret Ryan. "I just think of how hard he's worked, and how much he's given up."

Ryan's family will arrive in Rio next weekend. The long-distance swimmer is set to compete in the 10k Marathon on August 16 at 8 a.m.

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