Wales' greatest teams get a special welcome home
Gary Baker on 21/09/2012
Wales' Olympic and Paralympic heroes were given an incredible Welcome Home from sports fans from across the Principality at The Senedd this month.
In total, Wales won seven Olympic and 14 Paralympic medals in London and many of the athletes were in Cardiff Bay to receive the praise of Wales Government Presiding Officer Rosemary Butler, First Minister Carwyn Jones and the head of Sport Wales Professor Laura McAllister.
Outside on the steps of The Senedd was a male voice choir, a brass band and some of the army of Games Maker volunteers who were in London and have been highly praised for their efforts during the festivals of sport.
And there were those who were nominated to carry the Olympic Torch on its' journey around Wales during the summer where millions of people flocked to see history returning to British shores.
The Homecoming was not restricted to those who won medals. Stars throughout the squads were invited along and came to join the celebrations, including athletes Dai Greene, who was the Team GB athletics captain, Rhys Williams and Brett Morse.
Wales' athletics captain in the disability extravaganza, Tracey Hinton, was one of many Paralympians who did not make the podium but were there in Cardiff Bay to receive the plaudits of fans.
The evening saw host Jason Mohammed, from BBC Wales, introduce all the athletes one-by-one to the crowd with load roars for everyone of them.
The biggest cheers came for Wales' Olympic and Paralympic gold medallist - Jade Jones and Tom James in the Olympics and Mark Colbourne (pictured top right), Aled Sion Davies and Josie Pearson from the Paralympics.
The First Minister told the crowd watching and waiting to take pictures of their heroes: "We have seen superhuman feats on the sporting field, moments of achievement that will stay with all of us for the rest of our lives.
"After all the effort, preparation and dedication, our sportsmen and women have put in to make it to the London Games, today is the time to thank them, to show how much we appreciate what they have achieved and the lift they have given to the nation."
Prof McAllister endorsed the sentiments and said: "The performances from our athletes have captured the hearts of the public and they have shown they are capable of beating the best in the world."
The sportsmen and women also appreciated the reception they received. Before he got back into winter training for next season, Greene, who was agonisingly fourth in an incredible men's 400m hurdles in London, said: "It is great to see so many people who want to say well done to us all. I'm just sorry I have not got a medal to show them."
Aled Davies, who won gold in the Paralympics F42 discus in the Olympic Stadium, said: "I had an amazing time. The crowd was incredible."
Cardiff's rowing gold medallist Tom James added: "I want to thank everyone who came down to Cardiff for this. It was a really great day."
While Sara Head, who won bronze in the Paralympics women's team Class 1-3 table tennis, beamed: "It was an absolutely fantastic Welcome Home parade and I enjoyed every minute. Thank you, Wales."
And Newport's Paralympic swimming bronze medallist Liz Johnson said: "It was awesome support from the crowds at The Senedd. Thank you to everyone."
Even those who could not be there, like cycling Team Pursuit gold medallist and new world record holder Geraint Thomas said: "I was gutted to miss the Homecoming in Cardiff but I'm racing (in the World Road Race Championships in Holland)."
Now the focus is on the Wales team that is heading towards the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games in less than two years time, before many of the athletes on the steps of The Senedd this month will be hoping to fly off to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil for the next Olympics and Paralympics.
And now that the London celebrations are gone, the praise and thanks the athletes experienced in Cardiff Bay from the Welsh public will give them every encouragement from now until 2016 to make their respective teams and, again, do Wales proud at the biggest shows on earth.
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