Peter is a sports writer at the Bay of Plenty Times

Olympians honoured in civic parade

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GOLDEN BOYS: Peter Burling, left, and Blair Tuke were star attractions at the Tauranga Olympic Parade. PHOTO: ANDREW WARNER
GOLDEN BOYS: Peter Burling, left, and Blair Tuke were star attractions at the Tauranga Olympic Parade. PHOTO: ANDREW WARNER

The gold medals proudly worn by Tauranga's Peter Burling and Blair Tuke were the biggest draw card for the hundreds of well wishers who turned out to welcome home some of the Western Bay's Olympians yesterday.

"We wanted to bring one of these [gold medals] back to New Zealand and that is what the last four years of our lives have been about. To have achieved that is an amazing feeling," Burling said.

The two 49er sailors were also honoured to be flag bearers for New Zealand at the opening ceremony in Rio.

"That was an amazing experience for Blair and myself and we really appreciate the support we got," Burling said.

"We had an amazing amount of messages from back here, with people cheering us on and I think that made it more enjoyable."

Burling said their attention had now turned to the America's Cup qualification series.

"It is going to be a little bit weird but we have been doing the whole America's Cup thing for a while.

"I don't think this is going to be completely behind us for a few months yet but we are looking forward to getting into the yachting and some Team NZ stuff. The Cup is only eight months away now so it is creeping up.

"When you are a Kiwi you get the opportunity to sail lots of different boats and get some good skills at making different boats go fast."

One of the loudest cheers was reserved for Luuka Jones who won a silver medal in canoe slalom.

She hoped her success would make an impact on the number of young people taking up the sport.

"I think it will and already canoe slalom has been included in the AIMS Games for the first time which is really exciting.

"I think it has highlighted what the sport is to the nation and how amazing it is.

"There are definitely some pathways for lots of kids to get into the sport."

Sam Meech and Molly Meech became the first brother and sister to win medals for New Zealand at the same Olympics.

Sam won bronze in the single Laser class and was thrilled to finish in the top three.

"It was amazing because there were 10 or 15 guys who could win a medal.

"I knew if I performed on the day I had a chance but to come away with it when it is such a competitive fleet is absolutely an amazing feeling."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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