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Winnie, Mbalula welcome Team SA

2012-08-14 10:54
Sa Olympians arrive home
Sa Olympians arrive home
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Team SA arrives home

2012-08-14 08:45

See pictures from OR Tambo International as Team SA arrive home from the London Olympics.

Johannesburg - Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula received the first of South Africa's Olympic athletes as they arrived at the OR Tambo International Airport, in Kempton Park, on Tuesday.

Medallists, 800m runner Caster Semenya and canoeist Bridgitte Hartley stood in front of Madikizela-Mandela as supporters used their cellphones to take photographs of the celebrity athletes.

The crowd of supporters gathered at the airport and sang the national anthem for the athletes, who stood in a line with their hands over their chests.

A loud cheer, whistles and vuvuzela blasts followed.

Girls in a frenzy over swimmers

Earlier, gold medal swimmer Chad le Clos whipped the crowd into a frenzy when he introduced his fellow medallists.

"Let's welcome the athletes home," he said.

Le Clos and fellow medal winning swimmer Cameron van der Burgh had girls screaming their names, amid the ululating and toyi-toying masses.

Before the athletes made their appearance, thousands of people waving flags pressed against the security cordons and two decks up into the arrivals hall, people watched from above.

The Mahikeng local municipality erected a massive banner welcoming back marathon runner Stephen Mokoka, who ended 43rd in a tough race. His supporters wore specially made T-shirts - and had one mounted in an ornate gold-coloured frame.

‘I love Caster’

Crawford College Sandton pupils chanted school war-cries when they were not singing Shosholoza, and "welcome home" posters made by media houses got trampled underfoot.

"To know that someone from our school could go on to win a gold in the Olympics is, like, wow," said one girl about gold-medal winning rower Matthew Brittain.

"I love Caster," shouted Agnes Makena from Tembisa, through an enormous curly wig in the colours of the South African flag.

South Africa was the highest placed African nation on the Games medals table, in 24th position with six medals - three gold, two silver and one bronze.

Semenya won silver in the women's 800m, Hartley won bronze in the women's kayak single K-1500m sprint and rowers Sizwe Ndlovu, Matthew Brittain, John Smith and James Thompson won gold in the men's lightweight four.

Le Clos won gold in the men's 200m butterfly and Van der Burgh in the men's 100m breaststroke, setting a new world record. Le Clos also won silver when he tied for second in the 100m butterfly.

Rower Arnold Mathapa held up a banner made of paddles to welcome his fellow rowers home.
"I train with them and I know what it's like for them - it's very inspiring," he said.

Inspiring

Government spokesperson Jimmy Manyi said on Tuesday morning that the country was proud of the returning team.

"We join the multitudes of sport enthusiasts in congratulating our athletes for their best performance and grit at the games," he said in a statement.

"Team SA has emerged as shining stars and are now exemplary to those who want to achieve greatness. Government hopes that these achievements will inspire our local youth to follow in their steps and realise South Africa's dreams."

Manyi encouraged the country to honour the team by wearing the national sporting colours.
Earlier, LeadSA and the department of sport asked the public to give the team a heroes' welcome.

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