Members of Canada's Olympic team arrived home in Vancouver Monday afternoon to a crowd of fans. (CBC)
Friends, relatives and supporters of Canada's Olympic team were out in force at Vancouver International Airport this afternoon to meet the hometown athletes returning from the Beijing Olympics.
B.C.'s athletes shone this year, taking home six of Canada's 18 medals. With each appearance of a member of Canada's Olympic team at the top of the escalator at Vancouver International Airport, the cheers erupted.
Olympic rower Krista Guloien, of Port Moody, B.C., was one of dozens of athletes caught up in the sea of Canadian flags. This is a little overwhelming," she said. "This has been a really emotional last week."
The Canadian Olympic team won 18 medals at the Beijing Summer Olympics, six more than in Athens in 2004 and four more than in Sydney in 2000. It was Canada's second-best performance ever at a non-boycotted Games, after the Atlanta Games, where the national team won 22 medals.
Rowing bronze medallist Liam Parsons was also surprised by the enthusiastic reception. "I really wasn't expecting it," he said "It's a nice welcome home, for sure." Also among the crowd was Dominic Seiterle, who won one of Canada's three gold medals with the men's rowing eight team. There's a lot of pride," he said. "I didn't want to get off the plane without a medal in hand ... It's pretty much hit me as we touched down that we had succeeded." Eric Weibe, a nine-year-old budding gymnast, travelled all the way from Victoria to meet his hero, Olympic gymnast Kyle Schewfelt. "He's kind of like my hero," said Weibe. "That's why I look up to him." "Awesome! Well, good luck to you buddy!" responded Kyle Shewfelt. "The Olympics is about letting people believe in their own dreams," Shewfelt added. "And for him, he wants to be an Olympian and I'm sure can be one."
While the athletes are soaking up the national adoration now, they didn't always have quite this much support. It took Canada a week to win its first medal, and many people were asking why that was the case. Rower Tracy Cameron said that wasn't something she was thinking about. "I don't think you really pay attention to that," she said. "You are internally focused and focusing on your own race and what you can get out of yourself."