Kiwi athletes welcomed home

Members of the Silver Ferns' gold medal-winning team pose for a photo after returning from the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India. Photo / NZPA
Members of the Silver Ferns' gold medal-winning team pose for a photo after returning from the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India. Photo / NZPA

About 60 New Zealand Commonwealth Games athletes, including Valerie Adams and the Silver Ferns, arrived home to a rapturous welcome today.

Hundreds of family members, friends and fans of the country's Commonwealth Games contingent erupted in cheers and applause as the athletes made their way out of the arrivals gate at Auckland International Airport.

Many of those were there to see the gold medal-winning Silver Ferns, whose epic double extra-time victory over Australia on Wednesday thrilled much of the country.

Silver Ferns goal shoot Irene van Dyk said the homecoming was unbelievable.

"Because it was such a titanic game we were expecting a few people here, but we couldn't have hoped for anything like this," she said.

The game was one of the longest van Dyk had ever played, and the victory was one of the highlights of the veteran netballer's career.

Team mate Maria Tutaia, who scored the goal which sealed the gold, was surrounded by dozens of adoring fans for whom she signed photographs and posed for pictures.

"It's pretty awesome coming home to this, even though we knew we had the support all along, it's great to be back."

She said she would have hated to have been a spectator watching the Ferns' nail biting final.

"I'm surprised my parents are still alive, they would have had a heart attack."

The Ferns will have a six-week break before resuming training with their respective franchises.

Gold medal winning shot-putter Valerie Adams was also looking forward to having a break with her family, having been training non-stop for a whole year.

Adams said the games were on par with the Beijing Olympics, in which she too won gold.

""Beijing was pretty huge but this was just absolutely amazing, I'm just so glad that New Delhi pulled it off.

"I couldn't have asked for a better competition than that, I mean, finishing off with a Games record, winning the gold medal the way I did - I'm just ecstatic," she said.

Cambridge 22-year-old Joelle King, who was adorned with silver and gold medals for the women's and mixed squash events, said having the support of the close-knit Kiwi contingent had greatly enriched the experience in New Delhi.

"Being part of a wider team experience with people like the Silver Ferns and Valerie who have been there and done it before was just a phenomenal experience, something I'll never forget."

- NZPA

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