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Tuesday, 26 February, 2002, 20:41 GMT

Curling's homecoming queens

BBC Sport Online's Alasdair Lamont was at Glasgow Airport to join the family and friends of the Olympic gold medal-winning Scots curlers welcome home their famous relatives.

It is not very often that Scotland has the opportunity to welcome home sporting heroes who have proved themselves to be the very best in the world at their sport.

So the nation can be forgiven for making a bit of a fuss of its heroines, in this case, as the Olympic gold medal-winning curling team of Rhona Martin, Margaret Morton, Fiona MacDonald, Debbie Knox and Janice Rankin returned to Glasgow.

The Scots, who won Great Britain's first Winter Olympics gold for 18 years, were given a rapturous welcome after touching down on Scottish soil for the first time since their fabulous achievement.

Dozens of family, friends and well-wishers gathered to greet the team at Glasgow Airport's Holiday Inn.

The quintet, who displayed genuine disbelief at the level of interest their famous victory has created in their homeland, were welcomed by a piper in full regalia.

"She doesn't know how much of a hero she has become, her and all the girls"
Una Howie,
Rhona Martin's mother

Scotland's First Minister, Jack McConnell, was also on hand to pay tribute to their success, describing the moment as "a new beginning for Scottish sport and for curling in particular".

The medal winners seemed slightly bemused by the media throng that piled into the packed room set aside for the media conference and they freely admitted that their win had not yet sunk in.

Their families have had rather more breathing space to absorb the magnitude of the achievement

Nevertheless, Fiona MacDonald's husband Ewan admitted the reception put on was unbelievable.

"It is absolutely tremendous for the girls," he said.

"They deserve all the congratulations they are getting. They have done so well for the British team and for the sport of curling.

"There was some speculation about how big the reception was going to be, but this surpasses everybody's prediction. It's just incredible."

Rhona Martin's mother, Una Howie, insisted that the girls still had no idea of how famous they now were.

"She doesn't know how much of a hero she has become, her and all the girls," she said.

No-one was more excited than the children waiting for their mums and aunties.

"I can't wait to see my mummy with her medal," said a proud Andrew Martin, son of Rhona.

"We were too scared to watch because it was so exciting," said his sister, Jennifer.

Following the obligatory media scrum, the team were heading to Rhona Martin's local Greenacres Curling Club in Ayrshire for a reception and a well-earned celebratory drink.

But they cannot afford to relax too much, with the Scottish Championships starting next week.

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