SLAM!Sports
February 28, 2006
Heroes' welcome
Olympic medallists return home
By DARREN FRIESEN -- Calgary Sun


Olympic bronze medallist Mellisa Hollingsworth-Richards gets a kiss from husband Billy Richards after arriving from Turin, Italy on Monday. (Calgary Sun/Stuart Dryden)

Not since the Second World War has a flight from Germany brought home so many Canadian heroes.

With chants of "go Canada go" and the soft melody of our country's national anthem ringing through the halls of the Calgary International Airport, a handful of Canada's decorated Olympic athletes arrived home from Turin yesterday via Frankfurt, Germany.

Among the champions greeted to the heroes' welcome, gold medallist Duff Gibson, who competes in the skeleton, got an extra surprise upon landing.

"As soon as I landed I could only think that those were my guys and I was going to be in one of those trucks in a couple of days," said the 39-year-old firefighter, whose co-workers escorted the plane to the terminal in fire trucks.

Joining Gibson on the flight yesterday were his skeleton teammates Jeff Pain, a silver medallist, and Mellisa Hollingsworth-Richards, who captured the bronze.

For Pain, seeing his family capped off a week he'll never forget.

"It just feels great to be back home. It's been eight-and-a-half weeks since I've been here and three weeks since I've seen my family, so I'm happy to be here."

Showing off her bronze medal and wearing a black cowboy hat, Hollingsworth-Richards, wife of saddle bronc rider Billy Richards, was grateful for the warm reception and was even happier she had some hardware to show for her efforts.

"I was happy that I got to contribute to Canada's medal haul and I was very ... proud to be part of the Torino team," she said with a big smile.

"I've worked very hard and very long the last 10 years and it's great to come home with a medal around my neck. I can't wait to show all the skeleton athletes at (Canada Olympic Park) that it is possible for Canadian athletes to succeed."

Amidst the celebrations, Gibson took time out from hugs and handshakes to tell the world he was retiring from the sport of skeleton.

"The chances of repeating are slim, if not none. It can't get any better than this, so I'm never going to slide again."

Earlier yesterday, Calgary Flames players Jarome Iginla and Robyn Regehr, members of the men's Olympic hockey team that lost in the quarter-finals to Russia, also returned home.

They arrived, however, to a much more subdued atmosphere.

"It's really too bad because for Canada at these Olympics, it was very successful," said Regehr. "We're all very disappointed as a men's hockey team we didn't win the gold."

Rounding out the homecoming last night was Shannon Kleibrink's rink of Amy Nixon, Glenys Bakker and Christine Keshen. They were met by a crowd of 60-70 people Kleibrink called overwhelming.

"There were a lot of people at Toronto airport and we knew there would be people here but not this many," she said.

"We're so glad we came home with a medal. It feels like a gold medal to us. We had a bit of a struggle over there, dealing with sickness, but we're just going to shine a little yellow light on our medals and they will be gold."


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