Canada's Olympic stars come home to Vancouver (with video)
Hundreds chant, sing, embrace 'overwhelmed' athletes on arrival at the airport
Canadian eights rower Krista Guloien shows her silver medal on Monday, Aug. 13, at Vancouver International Airport as she arrives home after the London Summer Olympics.
Photograph by: Ward Perrin, PNG
METRO VANCOUVER — If there was any doubt as to who was Canada’s hero of the London Olympics, it ended when Christine Sinclair stepped off the plane Monday.
The captain of the Canadian women’s soccer team was greeted with cheers and chants of “She’s the captain” when she stepped into the international arrivals waiting area, along with three teammates.
Hundreds of Vancouverites, including athletes’ family members, came out to VYR to greet the returning Olympians. Many waved Canadian flags and some brought homemade signs greeting individual athletes.
The returning competitors were clearly overwhelmed. Cyclist Jasmin Glaesser didn’t seem to know where to turn when she saw all the people trying to get her autograph. Soccer player Karina LeBlanc, speaking to media above chants of “You’ll never beat Karina,” was visibly moved.
“It’s overwhelming,” said the bronze medallist. “I didn’t expect this much support. It’s really great. It’s my hometown. It’s really exciting to see everyone come out.”
Krista Guloien, a silver medallist in rowing, said the homecoming was better than Sunday’s closing ceremonies. “It was a good show, though.”
The Port Moody resident said what she missed most was her family — and Starbucks. “The mundane, routine things of life I’ve been missing out on while training,” Guloien said.
The soccer players addressed the controversial refereeing that may have cost them the semifinal game against the United States. “It’s the Olympics and we lost the chance at a gold medal,” said Sinclair. “I think we’re still bitter.” She held up the bronze medal her team won over France. “But this helps.”
During the Games, the team members were told about the support they were getting from Canadians. But, said LeBlanc, “We never imagined we’d come home to this.”
Clutching a bouquet of flowers from Vancouver soccer fans the Southsiders, LeBlanc said that London will always be one of her favourite cities “because of what we accomplished. And they did such an amazing job hosting the Olympics.”
Her favourite part of the closing ceremonies was the performance by the reunited Spice Girls. “During the time they were on, they panned into a couple of shots of us, the Canadian athletes. We all knew the song and we were all over the place, just rockin’ out. It just wrapped everything up.”
But the Olympians weren’t the only B.C. athletes arriving home after a triumphant win. Three Victoria-based fast-pitch baseball players arrived just before the plane from London. They were coming from a tournament in Kansas where their team, the Bucknell Park A’s out of Olympia, Wash., had won the North American Fastball Association’s 2012 AA World Series on Sunday.
Shawn Koster, his twin brother Darren Koster and Rob Gunter all decided to hide their medals under their shirts when coming off the plane, however. It wasn’t that they didn’t want attention, but “it would be the wrong kind of attention,” said Shawn. “They’re the Olympic athletes. They deserve it.”
Among the fans who came out to shower the Olympians with affection was the Lollar family out of Maple Ridge. “We know Karina LeBlanc,” said Nadine Lollar, who was there with her husband, their three sons and her mother-in-law.
“We’re going to scream and make some noise,” she said.
Thirteen-year-old soccer and field hockey player Meghan Garland brought a photo of the Canadian National Team for Sinclair and her teammates to sign. The North Vancouverite had recently come back from London, where she saw a number of Olympic events, including men and women’s triathlon and women’s field hockey and soccer. It wasn’t difficult to get tickets for those events, said Garland.
“Up in Scotland and England, women’s sports are not very big,” she said. “It’s really sad. The stadium wasn’t very full.”
She thought Canada “did pretty well” at this year’s Olympics. But struck a note of ambivalence regarding the medal count. “I’m really sad we only got one gold. But I think we worked really hard.”
Though an athlete herself, Garland said she doesn’t have Olympic aspirations of her own. “I just play field hockey and soccer for fun. I love it.”
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