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Olympians receive heroes' welcome

24 August 2016

RIO 2016: Australia’s 2016 Olympians touched down in Sydney this morning to a heroes' welcome.

The Qantas Welcome Home Ceremony saw dignitaries including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Governor-General, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove, greet the athletes as they arrived at Hangar 96.

Canoe Slalom bronze medallist, Jess Fox, was among the crowd to welcome her fellow Olympians home.

Fox, who has been traveling the world since April and arrived home a few days earlier to start World Cup preparations, said she was happy to be home.

“The whole Rio experience was pretty special; it was great to come away with another medal,” Fox said.

“It was different to London, but I think every Games is unique and Rio didn’t disappoint.

“There were lots of amazing moments and I’ll remember it forever.”

The Australian women's rugby sevens team were the bells of the ball, sporting their newest gold accessory and keen for photos with fans and fellow Aussie athletes.

Rowing pictogram

Amongst the photos and media interviews, there were tears of joy as athletes embraced family and friends they had been separated from for months.

“It’s been four months away for me, so it’s great to home but I don’t think it will sink in until I get back to the Gold Coast, sleep in my bed and see my mates,” said rowing bronze medallist Ken Wallace.

Opening ceremony flag-bearer and team captain, Anna Meares, said the Australian Team had been eagerly waiting for this moment.

“It’s so nice [to be home].

“I’ve been away for a couple of months with the track cycling program. I think it got to a point where everyone in this team was just watching the clock tick by until we could get on that plane and know that we were coming home.”

The 4x100m freestyle relay bronze medallist David Morgan was greeted by his two sisters, who were in tears when they finally reunited.

“It’s great, your family support you and follow the journey with you,” said Morgan.

“To bring home a medal for them makes it even more special.”

Rowing pictogram

Australia’s oldest Olympic debutant at Rio, Scott Westcott, was still feeling the pinch from his very recent marathon, but couldn’t hide the smile on his face.

“It was a bit of a mission, two weeks away,” Wescott said.

“My family were happy to let me go fulfil my dreams and it is complete now.

“I’ll go and pick my kids up from school today in my tracksuit. Just to get back into the routine will be good.”

For marathon runner Jess Trengrove, there was an even greater sense of urgency to touch down on home soil.

“It was really fun on that flight home, there was a real Aussie feel to it,” Trengrove said.

“My sister just had a baby last night so I can’t wait to get home and meet my little niece.”

The athletes will now go their separate ways, with many expressing sadness at the realisation that their trip as a team had come to an end.

Dual bronze medallist Cameron McEvoy said it would be difficult conveying the amazing experience of the Olympic Games to his friends and family.

“The amount of experiences we’ve gone through as a team over these last two-to-three weeks… there’s so many memories.

“You’re with your teammates and a lot of them are all your mates; but you don’t quite get to share that experience with everyone back home.

“When we land, all we want to do is see the family and get them to at least feel 50% of the experience and joy and fun that we felt at the Games.”

Rowing pictogram

Gold medallist Bronte Campbell was sad to be farewelling some lifelong friends.

“It’s really sad, we're all breaking up.

“All the swimmers are spreading around but I'll see them again.

“But the people I met from water polo and rowing, I probably won't see again for years. That’s really surreal and kind of sad.

“But we've had a really good time together, it’s a really good bonding experience, we're all there trying to do the same thing.

“We're all part of the same team.”

Some Olympians will be jumping straight back into competition as they look towards the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in 2018, plus have their hearts already set on Tokyo 2020.

“There’s no foot on the breaks,” said 20km walking bronze medallist Dane Bird-Smith.

“I’ve got a couple of races over in China next month and a race in Brisbane in three days.

“There’s no stopping me at the moment!”

Things Olympians missed most about Australia (apart from family)
Ed Jenkins: Australian breakfast
Alana Boyd: Cooking for myself and the beach
David Morgan: Aussie weather
Cameron McEvoy: Coffee
Dane Bird-Smith: Shopping for my own food
Bronte Campbell: The beach
Nicole Laird: Coffee
Louise Bawden: Her dog
Taliqua Clancy: Her bed
Jess Trengrove: Coffee: “Aussies do their coffee well, so I look forward to some cappuccinos back here”
Mack Horton: Home cooked meals and the water

Harry Easton

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