Fans greet Olympians returning from Pyeongchang at airports across Canada
Salmaan Farooqui, Laura Kane and Giuseppe Valiante, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, February 26, 2018 11:43AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 27, 2018 8:40AM EST
Hundreds of fans filled up the tiny arrival section of the airport in London, Ont., singing the national anthem and waving Canadian flags to welcome ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.
The pair signed flags, signs and Tim Hortons cups in what will be their last Olympic homecoming, as they retire from professional ice dancing after winning two sets of gold medals at the Pyeongchang Games.
Their first-place wins in ice dancing and team figure skating in South Korea brought their total Olympic medal count to five, making them the most decorated figure skaters in the history of the Games.
Cheering crowds also greeted Canada's athletes in Vancouver, where gold medallists Cassie Sharpe and Patrick Chan returned Monday.
Athletes also received a boisterous welcome in Montreal, where more than 100 people greeted returning athletes with hollers, horns and cheers at Pierre Trudeau International Airport.
In London, Moir and Virtue were shocked by the number of people who came out to meet them.
"We're tired but this is so exciting for us, we've been thinking about this moment being back home since we won the gold medal," said Moir, who is from nearby Ilderton, Ont. "It's been unbelievable, we haven't come down from Cloud 9."
Moir said representing Canada had only gotten more special in his third Olympics with Virtue.
"None of the magic had worn off," said Moir, who together with Virtue was Canada's flag bearer at the opening ceremony. "If anything, you feel more patriotic and we understand more what it means to represent Canada and wear the flag on our back."
"It's special and sentimental because it's been 20 years in the making and it's the culmination of it all competitively," added Virtue. "It couldn't have gone any better for us."
Asked when they think they'll come down from the high of winning, Virtue replied: "do we have to?"
The duo has been melting hearts since they claimed gold at the 2010 Vancouver Games, but this year they garnered a whole new group of fans who swooned over their chemistry on the ice. Some have suggested they might be in a romantic relationship -- a rumour the athletes have been denying for years.
In Vancouver, Chan said it was just beginning to sink in that he'd won gold in the team skating event.
"It's a nice feeling," the Toronto skater said with a grin, adding that he plans to leave it in his suitcase for a little while.
"I'll take a look at it every once in a while. It's sometimes better to keep it away and then just enjoy it once in a while."
Chan, 27, will also retire from competition, although he said he would continue to be involved in skating and perform at shows. He also hopes to eventually open his own skating school that will bring together Vancouver-area coaches and athletes.
"I've waited for so long, in a way," said Chan, who recently relocated to B.C. "It's a new beginning and a rebirth."
But first, he'll enjoy a rest.
"I'm going to just take a week to not do anything, not be a skater, not be an athlete and just enjoy B.C., enjoy everything I love about this place," he said.
Sharpe, from Comox, B.C., also said she was excited to be back in her own bed, cook herself some food and "just hang out." Her gold medal in freestyle skiing halfpipe was tucked into the pocket of her Team Canada sweater.
"It's phenomenal," she said. "It feels even better to hold it on Canadian soil. It feels good bringing it home."
"Personally, it's a bucket list thing. How many people get to say they won gold at the Olympics?" she added. "But then of course, feeling the pride and feeling everybody from Canada being so proud of you and being so happy that you're bringing it home to them ... it's incredible."
Women's hockey veteran Meghan Agosta was wearing her silver medal as she arrived in Vancouver. She said it was "unfortunate" that the final game against the U.S. ended in a 3-2 shootout loss.
"When it comes down to a shootout, anything could happen," she said. "But I'm so proud and happy with every single one of us girls in that room, we showed a lot of character, a lot of resilience."
Asked about her teammate Jocelyn Larocque's initial refusal to wear her silver medal on the ice, Agosta said it was the "heat of the moment.
"The decision that she made, it wasn't any ill will," said Agosta. "She didn't mean to disrespect anybody. We train so hard and we went there for gold. It was unfortunate that we ended up losing, but Jocelyn Larocque, she's an amazing leader, an amazing person, a great teammate."
Agosta took a year off from her job as a Vancouver police officer to train for the Olympics. She said she returns to the force in May.
Bobsled pilot Chris Spring of Priddis, Alta., who didn't bring home a medal, said he was excited for his fellow athletes who did. He said he was driving well during the two-man race but made a poor choice of runners on the first day, and his efforts to be aggressive on the second day didn't pan out.
"Huge credit to the coaching staff and everyone behind the scenes, the mechanics," he said after arriving in Vancouver.
"I was excited to leave," he added with a laugh. "If you have a great Games, you're excited to come home and share your results with Canada here, with family and friends. If you don't have a great result at the Games, then you're also pretty excited to get home."
Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, who ended their competitive careers with a bronze medal in pairs figure skating, were among the athletes who returned to Montreal.
"This was our last competitive competition, so it closes the book on this story," Radford said. "We look forward to doing shows and performing for people, but in a different context."
Duhamel said she felt "so settled and so content. Couldn't have asked for it to be any more than what it was. I just felt so settled."
Moreover, when Canada's skating team won gold, Radford became the first openly gay man to win an Olympic gold medal.
"I feel really proud of that fact," he said. "My success in skating allows me to tell my story, and I try to inspire LGBT youth and young athletes in general."
The Pyeongchang Winter Games were the final Olympis for speedskater Charles Hamelin, who was part of the short-track team which captured bronze in the men's 5,000-metre relay final.
"I tried to take a little moment with the guys and myself and to look in the crowd," he said after his last skate. "I tried to look everywhere in the stadium, just to make sure I remember the moment forever."
Kim Boutin, the 23-year-old flag bearer for the closing ceremonies from Sherbrooke, Que., raced to three speed-skating medals in Pyeongchang -- silver in the 1,000 metres, and bronze in both the 500 and 1,500.
"I will be sleeping, eating, just spending time with family," she said. "I feel accomplished in what I did."
She was hit hard online, however, with death threats and insults after she was blamed when South Korean star Minjeong Choi was disqualified in the 500.
"That's part of the athlete's life," she said about the online hate. "I was ready for that situation. My team helped me get through that obstacle."