Nation welcomes Olympic stars

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

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.

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

"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