As with so much else about the U.S. gymnasts' time in Tokyo during the Summer Olympics, it was a sudden twist after equally as sharp disappointment.
"I think coming back from a day like yesterday, I'm really proud of myself for being able to put that behind me and finish with probably the best floor routine I've ever done in my life," Carey told reporters on Monday right after her win.
The 21-year-old Phoenix native rebounded — and how — after placing last in the women's vault final on Sunday night, when she appeared to trip while running for her first try and couldn't come close to catching up with her second.
"It was a challenge, but I didn't want to give up," Carey said Monday. "And I heard everyone in the stands cheering for me and that really helped. But for tonight I just had to let that go and think about floor and give it my all."
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With her fellow women's gymnasts in the arena supporting her, Carey also had her dad, Brian, by her side: He is her coach and has been the first one she has turned to after competing.
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"Having my dad here means everything to me — this is all we've ever dreamed of," she told PEOPLE as she spoke with reporters, "and it's just really special to be able to get this medal with him out there by my side. And he's supported me 100 percent the whole time."
Carey said that after her stumbles on the vault, "I just talked to my dad last night and we decided together that we were just gonna let it go the best we could and both put everything in to tonight."
She performed second out of the eight finalists and had to watch as each other competitor tried and ultimately failed to top her. (Italy's Vanessa Ferrari won silver; Mai Murakami, of Japan, and the Russian Olympic Committee's Angelina Melnikova tied for bronze.)
"It was a long wait," Carey said after. "I was just trying to stay loose, stay moving and just keep my mind off of it." (Still, she admitted, "It's definitely nerve-wracking.")
She told PEOPLE that having the other American gymnasts nearby was a needed boost.
"That means everything to me to have them here supporting me. They were honestly the best teammates ever — especially last night. So I was just really lucky to have them up there supporting me," she said.
Following the vault, Carey said, the other women "just reminded me that I'm a great vaulter and that I will come back from it. And they, Simone [Biles] especially, was just helping me let it go and move on."
Biles "just said, 'It happened and [you] can't do anything about it,' and she's just like, 'Let's go out and kill floor.' So that's what I did."
Carey said she had nothing but pride for how Biles, the most decorated U.S. gymnast, has handled her own major challenges in Tokyo. The mental stress and an onset of the loss of BIles' air awareness caused her to withdraw from every event except for her last, the beam final on Tuesday.
"I'm really proud of her for coming back," Carey said.
And she was proud of herself for not dropping her own goals, which saw her follow an unconventional route to earn a spot as an individual on Team USA.
"It was definitely hard some times," she said. "But I'm really glad that we stuck with our decision and did what we did."
Soon, she'll be back home after a pandemic-postponed Olympics meant she was away from most of her family and friends.
Speaking with reporters, Carey took a moment to relish that moment when it comes — after an Olympics that has now seen all six of the U.S. women's gymnasts win at least one medal.
"Honestly, I'm really excited to get some good breakfast," she told PEOPLE, "because we all just need some really good breakfast. We're all ready for it."
To learn more about Team USA, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics now on NBC.