Crowd greets returning Paralympians

NICOLA ABERCROMBIE
Last updated 13:46 12/09/2012
DANIEL GALVIN\Fairfax NZ

Today the Paralympians Arrived Home at Auckland Airport

NZ Paralympians return
JOHN SELKIRK/Fairfax Media Zoom
WELCOME BACK: Paralympic swimmer Sophie Pascoe meets eight-year-old fan Jaden Movold at Auckland International Airport.

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Flowers, flags and familiar faces welcomed the New Zealand Paralympic Team as they arrived home today.

A small but dedicated crowd of about 50 friends, family and fans gathered at Auckland International Airport to welcome the team - and their 17 medals - back to New Zealand.

After about an hour of toe-tapping and even chanting to make customs work just a little bit faster, the team came out lead by golden girl swimmer Sophie Pascoe to a massive reception.

"Being right behind customs coming through we could hear the crowd it was really awesome," said quadruple medal-winning swimmer Mary Fisher. "Just to know there's so much support for the whole team is great."

The Wellington athlete said she did not initially know she had won gold in her final race but when she was told it was a "moment of elation".

"When I finished my race I knew I'd put everything into it but I had no idea I got the gold or exactly what my time was. A couple of minutes after I got out of the pool my tapper told me and I was like 'wait, actually?'.

"It was not quite a surprise, because we'd done so much work for it."

Fisher and Pascoe contributed 10 of New Zealand's 17 medals at the Games and Fisher said she hoped the achievement would inspire young para-athletes to aim for the top.

"Athens and Beijing really showed me what could be achieved from some of the other New Zealand athletes and those international Paralympic super stars.

"That made me really, really, really want to get to London so hopefully the whole team's success inspires some young kids to go for Rio and further Paralympics and Olympic Games."

Fan Jaden Movold managed to snag Pascoe's six medals and try them on for size.

The eight-year-old described the haul as "so, so heavy" but was adamant he would get a couple of his own one day in either basketball, swimming or both.

For Pascoe, who won four medals at the Beijing Games, the experience in London was vastly different to that of her Paralympic debut four years ago.

"London was just so proud of what they had done for us and the support from all the Great Britain fans was incredible. No mattter if you were from New Zealand or Great Britain you were getting cheered.

"To have an atmosphere around you like that and the swimming pool with 17,000 people and it was packed every night. It was just an insane feeling."

With six more medals on their way home to Christchurch, Pascoe admitted she may have to find somewhere new to keep her growing collection.

"My Beijing ones are actually kept in a supermarket bag at home so I guess I'm probably going to have to upgrade these ones to something else."

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- Fairfax Media

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