Nation welcomes Olympic stars

03:32, Aug 16 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.

Some of Manawatu's Olympians have arrived in New Zealand after a tiring but rewarding few weeks in London competing against the world's best athletes.

Family, friends and fans were at Auckland International Airport yesterday to welcome home the New Zealand Olympics squad.

Feilding cyclist Simon van Velthooven was greeted by his aunt, uncle and cousin.

Simon van Velthooven
HAPPY HOMECOMING: Cyclist Simon van Velthooven, with his keiren bronze medal.

With his Olympic keirin bronze medal dangling around his neck, he was pleased to be home but said he enjoyed his time at the Games.

"When you're in the [Olympic] village you see all the big names, all the athletics superstars and we're small fish in a big pond," he said.

"When you come back to New Zealand and get a reception like this, it is great.

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"All the people cheering for you."

The 23-year-old cyclist was only too happy to let fans get a hold of his medal, which he called "the nation's medal".

"I take it off wherever I can and let people hold it. It's such a cool thing to touch and see."

He hoped to inspire the next generation of Games athletes. "Anyone can do it, in my eyes. I can't wait for the next rotation [Rio Olympics 2016]."

Van Velthooven will arrive back in Palmerston North next week, before he heads away to compete in the Japanese Professional Keirin League.

An exhausted Black Sticks player Nick Wilson, who returned to Palmerston North last night, said it was "good to be home".

"It [the Olympics] was amazing," he said.

"The atmosphere around the whole Games was great. Other than our performance, it was awesome. It's good to be home though."

He said the support of New Zealanders was more than he ever expected.

"It's a real honour to be an Olympian and there were people from all over New Zealand supporting us. You could really feel that.

"You really feel like you're playing for the nation."

Manawatu's other bronze medallist, cycling team pursuit rider Jesse Sergent, is in Spain with his European road cycling team.

Black Sticks players Emily Naylor and Kayla Sharland have stayed on in Europe on holiday.

Manawatu Standard