TORONTO — Several members of Canada’s Olympic team — including multi-medallist and closing ceremony flag-bearer Penny Oleksiak — are back home.
Oleksiak and several returning athletes arrived at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport aboard two Air Canada aircraft before sunrise, with another group of athletes scheduled to arrive at around the same time early Wednesday.
When the flights arrived, airport firefighters saluted the returning athletes with giant arcs of water on either side of the airplanes.
Friends, family and fans mingled with reporters waiting for the athletes to clear customs and pick up their luggage.
Soccer player Ashley Lawrence’s parents donned Team Canada shirts to welcome their daughter. The pair said they are looking forward to figuring out where to display the midfielder’s bronze medal.
Lawrence’s teammate Jessie Fleming said she was proud of their performance.
“We all had a good tournament and we definitely deserved to bring this home,” Fleming said, holding her medal.
Most of the buzz focused on 16-year-old Oleksiak, who won four swimming medals at the Rio Games, including Canada’s first gold.
“I’m just really excited to be home right now,” Oleksiak said, adding she looked forward to seeing her mother and her friends.
The Olympic medallist, whose performance this summer has made her a household name, said she is grateful for the support Canadians have shown her and other athletes.
“You know Canada has your back,” she said.
Residents in Oleksiak’s east-end Toronto neighbourhood are planning a celebration for her return, tentatively planned for Aug. 28.
Johanna Carlo, a board member of the Beach Village Business Improvement Area, says the group has applied for a permit to hold a big party for Oleksiak and other athletes who have lived in the neighbourhood.
Carlo says they’re planning on having live music, and she’s hoping people will bring home-made signs and wear red and white.
The Canadian Press
©2016 The Canadian Press