Kiwi Olympians 'overwhelmed' (Photos)
Wed, 15 Aug 2012 4:15p.m.
By Imogen Crispe
Our Olympic medallists arrived home this morning, greeted by hundreds of cheering fans at Auckland Airport.
The London 2012 Games were New Zealand’s most successful since the 1988 Seoul Games with a haul of 13 medals. Many of those medals were on proud display this morning, as athletes mingled with the jubilant crowd.
“It’s very overwhelming and very humbling,” rowing gold medallist Nathan Cohen says.
He and fellow rower Joseph Sullivan won New Zealand’s first gold medal for 2012 in the men’s double sculls.
Cohen says he is now looking forward to catching up with friends and family and “enjoying not being so selfish for a change”.
“It’s very satisfying, more satisfying being part of such a successful team, we’re only one part of a big team,” he says.
New Zealand’s other golden rowing pair, Eric Murray and Hamish Bond, also flew in this morning.
“It’s great to have all these supporters here,” Murray says. “It’s great to see everyone who supported us on our Olympics journey… Everyone’s been inspired by the Olympic medals.”
But Murray’s medal is looking a little worse for wear, with small dings visible.
“It hit a beer glass the other day,” he says.
Sailors Polly Powrie and Jo Aleh say it’s “fantastic” to see so many people show support.
Powrie says she’s riding high from the Games and can’t believe it’s all over.
“It’s been a pretty surreal few weeks that we’ve had. I think we’re going to have to come back down to earth at some point.”
She says her medal is dedicated to New Zealand and all the supporters who helped the team win.
“It’s New Zealand’s gold. It’s fantastic to represent our country.”
There was a large contingent of Sailing New Zealand representatives there to greet the sailors, which also included silver medallists Peter Burling and Blair Tuke.
Burling says he was pleased to be bringing his medal home.
“I’m pretty happy with it, obviously the goal was to get gold, but I was really happy to get silver.”
Tuke agreed, saying it was “good to be home with our silver medals”.
The duo were planning to take their medals first to Tuke’s hometown of Kerikeri, then to Tauranga where Burling is from, before taking some time off.
The cycling team arrived on the first flight, including Simon van Velthooven, who won bronze for the men’s Keirin.
“I can’t believe there’s this many people,” he says. “It’s so special coming back here.”
Bronze medal team pursuit member Aaron Gates was also pleased to be back.
“It’s exciting. Four years ago I would never have thought I would have had the chance to get [a medal] so to have one in my hand is a great feeling.”
Other Olympians who arrived this morning included cyclists Marc Ryan and Westley Gough, gold single sculls winner Mahe Drysdale, BMX silver medallist Sarah Walker, bronze rowing pair medallists Rebecca Scown and Juliette Haigh.
Supporters 'excited' to see Olympic heroes
Friends, family and fans were just overjoyed to be seeing their Olympians come home.
Mahe Drysdale’s mum Robin Owens was eagerly waiting her son’s return, despite only having returned from London yesterday.
“I’m just excited full stop about everything. It’s just so exciting.”
She loved seeing him compete in London.
“I wouldn’t have missed it. It was so wonderful with all of the rowers doing well, they were just outstanding.”
Drysdale’s cousin Danny Watts was also there with his three daughters, Drysdale’s nieces.
“I'm just immensely proud. He's put in so many years of hard work. He missed out at Beijing so to come through and get the gold, it's just amazing.”
Tuke’s parents, along with younger brother Jesse, couldn’t wait to see their silver medal-winning son.
“I’m extremely excited, it’s been a long two weeks,” Jesse says. “He’s going to be over the moon, he’s worked so hard to get to this point.”
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