Rousing welcome as Olympians return

02:01, Aug 15 2012
NZ Olympians arrive home
Bronze medal winning cyclist Aaron Gates' family awaits his arrival at Auckland airport.
NZ Olympians arrive home
Rowing fans await the arrival of the New Zealand Olympic team.
NZ Olympians arrive home
Sarah Walker poses for photos with her medal at Auckland airport.
NZ Olympians arrive home
A young fan gets up close to Sarah Walker's silver medal.
NZ Olympians arrive home
Sarah Walker is greeted by boyfriend Ian Seymour.
NZ Olympians arrive home
Cyclist Simon van Velthooven gives his bronze medal a kiss as he arrives at Auckland airport.
NZ Olympians arrive home
Sarah Walker with her BMX silver medal.
NZ Olympians arrive home
Some young fans gather to check out Sarah Walker's silver medal.
NZ Olympians arrive home
Sarah Walker stops for a photo with some young fans.
NZ Olympians arrive home
Westley Gough, left and Marc Ryan, members of the bronze medal winning team pursuit, arrive in Auckland.
NZ Olympians arrive home
Members of the cycling team arrive at Auckland airport.
NZ Olympians arrive home
Cycling medalists, from left; Aaron Gate, Simon van Velthooven, Sarah Walker, Marc Ryan and Westley Gough pose for a photo.
NZ Olympians arrive home
Simon van Velthooven poses for a photo with his family.
NZ Olympians arrive home
Fans line the barriers at Auckland airport to catch a glimpse of their Olympic heroes.
NZ Olympians arrive home
Mahe Drysdale shows his gold medal to young cousins Niia, 4, left and Zizi, 6.
NZ Olympians arrive home
Eric Murray, Nathan Cohen and Blair Tuke arrive at Auckland airport.
NZ Olympians arrive home
Gold medallist Eric Murray has his hands full with son Zac and interviews after arriving home from London.
NZ Olympians arrive home
Hamish Bond shows off his gold medal.
NZ Olympians arrive home
Peter Burling and Blair Tuke show off their silver emdals.
NZ Olympians arrive home
Jackie, Zac and Eric Murray share a family moment at the airport.
NZ Olympians arrive home
Joseph Sullivan stops for a photo with some rowing fans.
NZ Olympians arrive home
470 gold medallists Polly Powrie and Jo Aleh are all smiles as they arrive in Auckland.
NZ Olympians arrive home
Rebecca Scown, Joseph Sullivan and Juliette Haigh with their medals.

NZ's Olympic heroes returned home today, saying they want to repay the debt they owe the public and hoping they have inspired others.

Scores of fans were there to welcome the team, which were returning on two flights from London, with the first arriving at Auckland International Airport at 9am and the other close to 11am.

Men's pair champion Eric Murray clutched his son in one arm when he appeared shortly before midday, his gold medal around his neck.

Murray said all the athletes wanted to repay the public for their investment in them. He hoped they would be able to get around the country to meet fans.

He said the whole team felt for shot putter Valerie Adams missing out on her gold medal ceremony.

"It's what you love, what you work for."

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Murray dismissed suggestions that Nadzeya Ostapchuk, the Belarusian disqualified for drug use, had been ambushed or tricked: "that is what all drug cheats say".

His team-mate, Hamish Bond, said the welcome was fantastic.

Olympic single-sculls champion Mahe Drysdale beamed his way through the crowds.

"Here you go mate," he said as a small child reached forward to hold the medal.

Team chef de mission Dave Currie said the weclome was wonderful.

"I've done seven, and every one is good, but this might be the best,"

Currie, whose handling of the Adams' registration-for-competition issue caused consternation, said calling her with news of her gold "was the best phone call of my life".

BRING ON RIO

Kierin bronze medallist Simon van Velthooven gleefully lept into the waiting scrum, passing his medal around the crowd.

"I want everyone to hold it and see how heavy it is," he said. "I can't wait to get out there and show everyone this medal and inspire some more people to do the same as what I did."

Van Velthooven was already eyeing greater feats.

The Feilding 23-year-old was greeted by his aunty, uncle and cousin, who held a doubled-sided sign saying "Rhino Rules" on one side and "party at his house" on the other.

"This is what any sportsman wants to do, bring home the bacon for New Zealand," van Velthooven beamed.

Inspired by British cycling legend Sir Chris Hoy, who secured his sixth gold in London, van Velthooven pledged his desire to follow in his idol's footsteps after spending a night on the town with him.

"This medal is just a carrot for the donkey in my eyes. I can't wait for the next rotation," he said in reference to the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

"The bronze is great, but after seeing Chris Hoy win his sixth gold, I want to go down that road for sure. After racing we talked more and more now. We went out and had a night together."

His aunty, Sue, believed her nephew had the potential to kick on and realise his lofty dreams.

"He'll be like a Rhino with a sore head waiting four years to do it again."

Van Velthooven's younger cousin, 18-year-old New Zealand rowing prospect, Louis, wanted to emulate his courageous performance on the world stage.

"It was very inspirational, something to remember forever. It will be my dream to be there one day, too," he said.

A buzzing Kiwi BMX Olympic silver medallist Sarah Walker was looking forward to getting home.

She said it was great being on a return flight with the other athletes and was delighted with the welcome.

"Its great to be home," she said as little children, families and the media each jostled to get a touch of her medal.

"So happy to be back."

A tiny four-year-old French boy, Martin Premoselli, was plainly overwhelmed to hold Walker's medal for a moment.

"We are just passing through on our way home, its wonderful," his mother said.

One family group, waiting for cycling bronze pursuit rider Aaron Gates, arrived early for a front row seat.

"I'm his girlfriend's dad," Danny Pooley said, proudly holding up a team banner.

Dozens of airport staff turned out to watch the carefully controlled arrival.

Regular passengers were directed another way as the Olympic squad arrived.

Among the other arrivals - and noticed by many - were members of the Samoan, Nauruan and Cook Islands Olympic teams.

Fairfax Media