Cheering crowds welcome Canadian Olympic athletes home
Canadian women's soccer team captain and London Olympics bronze medalist Christine Sinclair is greeted by family and friends upon arrival from London at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., on Monday, Aug. 13, 2012. (Darryl Dyck / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Monday, August 13, 2012 6:17PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, August 13, 2012 8:59PM EDT
Canadian Olympic athletes were greeted like rock stars at airports across the country Monday as they flashed their medals and big smiles.
Throngs of supporters, autograph-seekers and journalists surrounded the Olympians as they emerged in the airports’ arrivals halls, wearing Team Canada’s Olympic gear.
Canada’s only gold medalist at the London 2012 Games, trampolinist Rosie MacLennan, drew cheers and applause from the crowd at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.
MacLennan told reporters she was more relaxed going into the routine that earned her a gold medal than when she first arrived in London.
“I was nervous going into the preliminary round, but when I saw my family when I was competing, I looked up and they were right in front of me so that was a very calming thought -- just knowing that really important things would never change no matter what happened,” said the 23-year-old gymnast from King City, Ont.
“Now everybody knows my name.”
Also arriving at Pearson Airport was soccer player Diana Matheson, who scored the winning goal in Canada’s bronze-medal victory over France last week.
The Mississauga, Ont.-born Matheson said she’s happy that her team’s Olympic success has drawn attention to women’s soccer, and she encouraged Canadian girls interested in the sport to “keep practicing.”
"I think right now we’re going home to sleep for a week," she said of the team’s next steps.
Matheson’s teammate and soccer star Christine Sinclair landed in Vancouver, where she was greeted by many young fans hoping to catch a glimpse of their hero.
“I’ve been playing soccer since I was four…she’s kind of an inspiration for me,” said Sarah Balneaves, a young Vancouver-area girl who hoped to get Sinclair’s autograph.
As the crowd serenaded her, Sinclair posed for pictures with hundreds of fans.
"We wanted, heading into this tournament, (to) leave the sport in a better place than when we'd gone into it," she said. "I could never have imagined this (strong show of support) would have come."
Sinclair scored three goals in Canada’s nail-biting game against the United States that ended in a heartbreaking 4-3 loss. She was chosen to carry the Canadian flag at the London 2012 Closing Ceremony Sunday night.
Kayaker Mark de Jonge, who won a bronze medal in the 200-metre race, told CTV Toronto he was excited to soon land in Halifax Monday night, where he expected his friends and hometown supporters to gather.
“It’s been a long journey to get a medal and I just feel so satisfied right now,” de Jonge said at Pearson Airport before catching a connecting flight.
Team Canada fell just short of its London 2012 goal, clinching the 13th spot in overall medal standings with one gold, five silver and 12 bronze medals.
The Canadian Olympic Committee was aiming for a top-12 finish.
Speaking to reporters in Toronto on Monday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the Canadian government has put “a record amount of money into high-performance athletics and we are…evolving a system where we’re also drawing in private support as well.”
Asked about the criticism over Canada’s medal haul, Harper said: “Look, rather than dwell on that today, now that the Olympics are over I think the most appropriate thing to do is to congratulate all of these tremendous young Canadian men and women for representing our country, particularly those who’ve won medals.”
With files from The Canadian Press