Olympian gives parents gift from heart

SPICK AND PANS: Olympic gold medallist Joseph Sullivan shows his parents Mike and Elaine around their refurbished home.
SPICK AND PANS: Olympic gold medallist Joseph Sullivan shows his parents Mike and Elaine around their refurbished home.

It was a scene straight out of a home renovation show at Mike and Elaine Sullivan's home in Picton, complete with all the emotion that goes with a life-changing gift.

The parents of Olympic gold medal rower Joseph Sullivan returned to their home after visiting their daughter, Roanna Sullivan, in Perth to find a huge amount of renovation work having been secretly done to their house.

"Thank you so much, it's stunning, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. I had better stop now," said Mike Sullivan before emotion got the better of him.

Elaine Sullivan was equally stunned by the transformation of their home over the past three weeks.

"We are very humbled by so many people being so kind to us, this is just amazing," she said.

Two months ago, while travelling back from a rowing regatta in Auckland, Joseph began to think of ways to repay his parents for their years of support, which saw them pour all the spare finance they could into his career.

The rise to the level of elite athlete takes a massive amount of work on the part of the individual but also requires staunch support and, in Joseph's case, most of that came from his parents.

The major renovations and improvements were done by Marlborough businesses and tradesmen.

The estimated total value of work, supplies and merchandise is about $70,000.

Joseph and his brother, Brayden, proudly showed their parents around the house, explaining what work had been done and who had been involved.

Work had gone in well into the night on Wednesday and was picked up again yesterday morning, but all the hard graft was well worth the effort. "I got off the ferry at 1pm and came to the house to stain the sills. It's really great to get it finished," said Joseph, who had driven from Auckland to Wellington to spend Christmas with his girlfriend, Holly, and her family.

Brayden had been working the night before.

"We probably finished up at about 10pm last night with the last few jobs like the last bit of painting and fixing up small things like the wall paper," said Brayden.

The family said that they were blown away by how Marlborough businesses and tradespeople had got behind the project.

"Cheers to Marlborough, thank you Marlborough," an emotional Joseph said.

Fairfax Media