Crowds welcome home Canada's Olympic athletes

Crowds gathered at airports across the country Monday to welcome home Canada's Olympians after 16 days of excitement, triumph and heartbreak at the London Games.
Canadian Olympic gold medalist Rosie MacLennan holds up her medal for the cameras as she arrives home at Toronto's Pearson airport. (J.P. Moczulski/Canadian Press)

Crowds gathered at airports across the country Monday to welcome home Canada's Olympians after 16 days of excitement, triumph and heartbreak at the London Games.

Trampolinist Rosie MacLennan, Canada's only gold medallist at this year's Games, was met by a throng of media and supporters at Toronto's Pearson Airport.

"Now everybody knows my name," said MacLennan, wearing the gold medal around her neck.

Her Twitter followers exploded from 900 to more than 14,000 after taking gold in women's trampoline, beating a pair of favoured Chinese athletes.

Women's soccer team celebrated

Fans at Vancouver's international airport erupted in cheers when soccer star and Olympic bronze medallist Christine Sinclair landed.

The 29-year-old captained the Canadian women's soccer team to a bronze medal — the first podium placing for Canada in a Summer Games traditional team sport since 1936. She was selected as the flag-bearer for the Canadian team at Sunday's closing ceremony of the London Olympics.

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Sinclair, flanked by her teammates, appeared overwhelmed when the crowd began chanting her name and yelling, "She's our captain!" 

"Being in England, we didn't understand what had happened back here and they're like, 'Just wait, just wait until you see when you get home,'" Sinclair said. "But I don't think any of us expected this."

At Winnipeg's James A. Richardson International Airport, one of Sinclair's teammates, midfielder Desiree Scott, arrived to a boisterous crowd waving Canadian flags and chanting, "We love Des!"

"This is amazing," said Scott. "I'm a very emotional person and to come home and hear your name being screamed ... this is not something I'm used to. This is unreal."

Support for Connaughton

P.E.I. native Jared Connaughton, who came close to winning bronze in the 4x100-metre relay race, was greeted at the Charlottetown airport by friends and family.

Jared Connaughton reacts as he is greeted by family and friends at the Charlottetown Airport. (Brian McInnis/Charlottetown Guardian/Canadian Press)

After appearing to come in third place in the relay, the team was disqualified because Connaughton stepped slightly outside his lane. Connaughton has since received thousands of messages of support.

"Sometimes the bad times wake you up to the good times you weren't paying attention to," Connaughton said after he arrived.

At Calgary's international airport, track and field athlete Jessica Zelinka, gymnast Nathan Gafuik and cyclist Laura Brown arrived to a crowd of about 100 people.

"This is crazy," said Gafuik. "I was just happy to be home. I thought I was just going to come meet my mom at the airport, I didn't know all of this was going to be here."

Although she didn't win any medals, Zelinka said that competing in the Games was an amazing experience.

"It was just incredible," she said. "Performance-wise I was somewhat disappointed in the heptathlon, but in general to be able to do the hurdles and make the finals, it's still unbelievable that I was there in that final."

Zelinka said that overall, the Canadian team is young and shows a lot of promise.

In total, Team Canada took home 18 medals: 12 bronze, five silver and one gold.

With files from The Canadian Press