Canada

'Canada has your back': Penny Oleksiak leads athletes home after 22-medal Games

Members of Canada's Olympic team, led by breakout swim star Penny Oleksiak, stepped through the arrivals area at Toronto's Pearson airport this morning in a triumphant return after an impressive 22-medal performance in Rio de Janeiro.

Breakout swim star thanks Canada for support from home

Canada's Olympic gold medalists Penny Oleksiak, right, and Rosie MacLennan pose for media as they are welcomed at the Toronto Pearson Airport in Toronto on Tuesday August 23, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent Elkaim (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Canadian Press)

Elated to be home but exhausted after their long journey, members of Canada's Olympic team, led by breakout swim star Penny Oleksiak, stepped through the arrivals area at Toronto's Pearson airport early this morning in a triumphant return after an impressive 22-medal performance in Rio de Janeiro. 

A large group of friends, family, media and well-wishers packed Terminal 1 to greet the athletes.

Receiving perhaps the biggest welcome was Oleksiak, the 16-year-old Toronto swimmer who won four medals as one of Canada's youngest athletes. She walked into the airport's arrivals area wearing her gold medal. 

"It's pretty great to be home. It was pretty unreal for me. I didn't expect it at all," said Oleksiak of her performance. 

Oleksiak, who also was chosen as flag-bearer for the closing ceremony in Rio, said she is grateful for the support Canadians have shown her and other athletes. 

"You know Canada has your back."

Erica Wiebe, who won gold in wrestling, says she's elated to be back and sharing the gold medal with her family and community of Stittsville, Ont. (CBC)

Erica Wiebe, a wrestler who also won one of Canada's four gold medals in Rio, grew up in Stittsville, Ont., outside Ottawa. She now lives and trains in Calgary.

"I don't even believe this is happening," she told CBC News while clutching her medal. "The last few days have been a whirlwind and to have a welcome like this to Canada, it's surreal. I'm just excited to share my medal with my community and family and sleep a bit."

Shelin Zadorsky, left, Jessie Fleming and Rebecca Quinn speak to reporters after arriving at Pearson airport Tuesday. Their team won bronze in Rio, a repeat of their performance at the London Games. (CBC )

Jessie Fleming, a member of the women's soccer team that took home bronze, arrived just after 6 a.m. ET and spoke about the experience of representing Canada for the first time.

"Everyone played well and I think we deserved this," said the London, Ont., native. "It was my first Olympics. The vets were so good about showing us the ropes. It was an incredible first experience. I couldn't ask for more."

When the flights arrived, airport firefighters saluted the returning athletes with giant arcs of water on either side of the
airplanes.

Diana Matheson helped Canada's women's soccer team take home bronze. She's looking forward to some home-cooked meals. (CBC)

Rosie MacLennan, Canada's flag-bearer at the opening ceremony, and who repeated in Rio as gold medallist in trampoline, said the support from Canadians watching from home made all the difference.

"It's amazing. The support that we've been getting has been incredible. We could feel it down in Rio and it inspired us. It's awesome to see the team grow and improve."

A young fan writes a welcome message to Canada's Olympic athletes, who arrived home after a 22-medal performance in Rio de Janeiro. (Linda Ward/CBC)

Diana Matheson a member of Canada's bronze-medal-winning soccer team, said she's looking forward to a home-cooked meal. Canada's soccer team repeated its performance from the London Games, and said Rio has raised the team's expectations.

"This time it felt like we were one of the top teams and deserved to be on the podium again."

Not everyone arrived back home Tuesday with a medal. Among the first in the arrivals area was Eric Woelfl, who placed 13th in lightweight men's rowing.

Woelfl said he's grateful for having the "wonderful experience" of representing his country.

"I had the opportunity to represent Canada at the Olympic Games, which is not something you get to do every day. Not everyone can win a gold medal," said the St. Catharines, Ont., native. "It's the process of getting there that matters."

Teenage soccer fans Claire and Gillian Kilgour found out about the Olympic homecoming at midnight and got up at 4 a.m. to come to the airport with their father.

Three hours later, the 16-year-old twins were rewarded with an autograph from Kadeisha Buchanan, one of the bronze medal-winning women's soccer players.

The sisters stress they support the whole team, however.

"We don't have a favourite player," Gillian Kilgour said. "We like everybody."

Canada finished the Games with four more medals than they won in London four years ago, good for 10th overall.

Gold medallists Rosie MacLennan and Erica Wiebe give advice to young female athletes

6 years ago
Duration 0:47
Canadian gold medallists Rosie MacLennan and Erica Wiebe arrived at Pearson airport early Tuesday morning and shared some advice for young female athletes.

With files from The Canadian Press

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