Picton pushes out boat for its hero
Hundreds of Marlborough people are expected to be in Picton on Sunday to welcome back the town's Olympic gold medal-winning hero Joseph Sullivan.
The region's first Olympic gold medal winner, Sullivan will arrive in style for the "Party at Joe's Town".
Weather permitting, he will arrive on the Picton foreshore aboard a coxed four called the Sea Lion, the skiff he did his earliest training in with the Picton Rowing Club.
The celebration, which has been arranged by the club, has been moved from the rain-soaked foreshore to the paved area in London Quay.
Club captain Keiran Gaudin said Sullivan was expected to arrive at the quay area about 1pm but he suggested people get there earlier so they don't miss him.
Sullivan will mingle with the crowd, sign autographs, have photos taken and give fans an opportunity to see an Olympic gold medal up close.
Picton brother and sister Sophie, 9, and Oli Overend, 12, will be among the crowd and are excited about the party.
Sophie said she had been looking forward to seeing Sullivan in person after watching him win gold in London on television while on a school camp at Mistletoe Bay.
She was keen to see how tall he was after she heard he was short for a rower.
Oli hopes to get his autograph.
Sullivan is expected to be at the party on the quay until about 3pm. If there is heavy rain, the event will be held at the Picton School hall on Buller St.
Sullivan has been back in New Zealand since Thursday last week and is in Christchurch today for the official team welcome.
He and crewmate Nathan Cohen, of Invercargill, started New Zealand's haul of gold medals at the London Olympics when they won the thrilling double sculls final.
People going into Picton from Blenheim on Sunday should be in no doubt about what territory they are entering.
A two-metre-high road sign welcoming people to Picton, "the home of Olympic gold medallist rower Joseph Sullivan", will be erected at the entrance to Nelson Square near the Crow Tavern.
Paid for by Sullivan's long-time sponsor Graeme Rose, from Window Treatments in Christchurch, the sign is expected to be up by Sunday.
Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman said the champion rower had done Picton proud, raising the town's profile in the most positive way.
He urged people to come out in force for the big welcome home on Sunday.
"Any town or region would be proud to lay claim to such an outstanding sportsman.
"An Olympic gold medal in sport in which New Zealand has the highest international standing is currency beyond value," Mr Sowman said.
The Marlborough Express