Rio 2016: All-star welcome for Aussies returning home
AUSTRALIA'S Olympic team have been given an all-star welcome after returning from Rio.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Governor-General Peter Cosgrove greeted chef de mission Kitty Chiller and flag bearers Anna Meares and Kim Brennan as the left the plane.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Sport Minister Sussan Ley also greeted the lead team.
Rockhampton's Meares, who won a bronze medal, says leading the team was a career highlight.
"It was a really incredible moment, one that will be etched in my mind for the rest of my life,'' Meares said.
"Hearing the roar of support - Aussies are pretty popular on the Olympic stage! In Rio, I felt like I belonged to lead this team. It was a great experience."
Kitty Chiller said all the athletes here now return to Australia as ambassadors for their country.
"And as Olympians for life, as you join our historic 120-year-old Australian Olympic team.
"Wear your badge of Olympian with honour and integrity, and with humility. Be proud of what you've achieved and know that you have inspired and will continue o inspire thousands of Australians."
"There is much to celebrate and be proud of. This is the Games we demonstrated the strength of our youth. The depth and strength of our team and our youth is our future, and Tokyo looms large.
"This Olympic campaign was not just about medals. I could not be prouder of what we have all achieved in this area.
"Athletes have celebrated and commiserated with team-mates from other sports. These past few weeks have been the origin of lasting friendships and a lifetime of memories."
The Daily Telegraph reported that medal winners travelled business class on the Qantas charters, which rowing gold medallist Brennan described as a "real treat".
"This has been a wonderful team to be a part of, a great team to lead and I couldn't ask for a better way to start Rio and come home," she told Seven.
Family members greeted the other athletes with hugs and kisses in a ceremony at the Qantas hangar at Sydney airport.
Swimmer Mack Horton, who won gold in the 400m freestyle, said he was excited to be home but "sad to be leaving the team".
His mum Cheryl was delighted to have him back and proud of his and the team's achievements.
"The whole team has done an amazing job, in particular the way they handled themselves when things haven't gone as they had hoped," she told Seven.
And there was special praise for her son: "He is amazing, what can I say? He takes after his mother."
Surprise gold medallist Chloe Esposito said she was glad Australia could watch her win the country's first medal in the modern pentathlon and her achievement was still to hit home.
"It's so special and it really is sinking in now, seeing all of this," she said.