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Last Updated: Monday, 30 August, 2004, 17:45 GMT 18:45 UK
Heroes return to warm welcome
By Dan Warren
BBC Sport at Gatwick Airport

Kelly Holmes greeted by crowds at Gatwick

Britain's Olympians were given a rapturous reception as they were welcomed back on to home soil on Monday afternoon.

Team GB, who left with many ominous predictions about their performance ringing in their ears, came back hearing only cheers from hundreds of fans.

They were not greeted with the same hysteria as England's World Cup winning rugby heroes.

But there were crowds five or six deep in parts as many took time out on their bank holiday to meet flight CY1314 from Athens.

The men's rowing four were first to emerge to a crescendo of cheers.

Kelly was amazing although I loved the sprint relay boys as well.
British fan Lesley Wallington
There were no tears from Matthew Pinsent this time, although the four-time gold medallist seemed taken aback by the volume of the reception.

Jason Gardener and Mark Lewis-Francis, two members of the successful sprint relay team, had probably never moved so slowly as they inched past the massed ranks of autograph hunters.

There were also plenty of shouts for Amir Khan when the silver medallist made his appearance.

But the loudest cheers were reserved for Kelly Holmes, who made a suitably dramatic late entrance.

Kelly Holmes
Kelly Holmes was the name on most fans' lips

The fans began a chant of "Kelly, Kelly" to show their appreciation for the efforts of the double gold medallist.

And although every athlete received a share of the goodwill, it was her name on the lips of most of the fans.

"We're here for Kelly Holmes," said mother and daughter Linda and Sarah from Corringham in Essex.

"She's just fantastic," added Linda.

Holmes' mother Pam Thomson was among the crowds.

She said: "I don't know what I'm going to say when I see Kelly. It's going to be very emotional.

"I'm surprised there are not more people here but it is a nice turnout, which is great for Kelly and all the athletes who were so successful." The fans stood alongside crowds of photographers, who caused much alarm to holidaymakers fresh off non-Olympic flights from Portugal, Guernsey and the Czech Republic.

The overall feeling was one of triumph as Team GB arrived wielding 30 medals - their best haul since the boycott-hit Games of Los Angeles in 1984.

Lesley Wallington of Croydon, who came with her husband and their three children, said the Games had been "a fantastic spectacle" capped by Holmes' double gold.

When she took the medal we were just so proud
Gold medallist Sarah Ayton's mother Coleen

"We watched the whole thing. She was amazing, although I loved the sprint relay boys as well.

"That was unexpected, which makes it even better."

Husband David agreed: "Kelly was brilliant, although I was into the rowing and boxing as well."

Modern pentathlon bronze medallist Georgina Harland's family greeted her arrival with a 10-foot banner which, underneath her name, read simply: "Congratulations, we are so proud of you."

Also among the crowd were the parents of sailor Sarah Ayton, who with Shirley Robertson and Sarah Webb scooped gold, Britain's first of the Games, in the Yngling class.

Ayton's mother Coleen, 54, and father Brian, 53, spoke of the immense pride they had in their daughter.

Coleen wept as she said: "When she took the medal we were just so proud.

"We saw her last Saturday but we can't wait to welcome her home. We came down today just to be part of the atmosphere."





Links to more Olympics 2004 stories


 

WATCH AND LISTEN
Interview: Kelly Holmes



Interview: Britain's coxless four



Interview: Darren Campbell




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