Olympic gold medallists Blair Tuke and Peter Burling return to heroes welcome

By Mike Dinsdale

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New Zealand gold medal winning Olympic sailors Peter Burling (left) and Blair Tuke smile after arriving at Auckland Airport. Photo / NZME
New Zealand gold medal winning Olympic sailors Peter Burling (left) and Blair Tuke smile after arriving at Auckland Airport. Photo / NZME

Thousands of Kiwis flocked to Auckland Airport and The Cloud on Auckland's waterfront to welcome home our record-breaking Olympic team.

And tomorrow Kerikeri will put on its own gold medal parade for Olympic yachting gold medallists Blair Tuke and Peter Burling, who won the 49er class at Rio.

Tuke and Burling will be honoured with a parade through Kerikeri's main street to celebrate their success.

The pair won a silver medal in the event at the 2012 London Olympics and Kerikeri honoured them then too, but tomorrow's event is expected to be much bigger.

The parade is due to start at 1pm from outside the Woodland Motel at 126 Kerikeri Rd then journey along Kerikeri Rd, turning left into Cobham Rd and finishing in the Domain.

Light rain and clouds are forecast for Kerikeri tomorrow, with a high of 19C, meaning the parade is likely to go ahead, but if the rain is heavy a formal welcome will be held in the Turner Centre, on Cobham Rd, from 1pm.

Leading the parade will be a Scottish piper and NZ Army cadets will be behind carrying various flags. Demonstr8 hip-hop dance team will also take part in the parade and a stage will be set up in the Domain, where there will be a welcome powhiri by Kerikeri High School's kapa haka group.

Speakers are mayor John Carter, commodore of the Kerikeri Cruising Club, Doug France, and Tuke's old sailing teacher, Derry Godbert.

Organiser Dave Keen says he expects a large turnout and school children will be issued with small gold flags. Many other people in the town and local businesses are expected to cover up in gold to mark the occasion.

Tuke was part of the Kerikeri Cruising Club's youth development programme from the age of 9. He attended Riverview Primary School and continued sailing at Kerikeri High School as a member of its remarkably successful sailing academy.

Burling's grandparents, Bruce and Judith Burling, are long-time residents of the town so Kerikeri seemed the logical place for the parade.

It is widely expected that after the parade Tuke will be made a life member of the Kerikeri Cruising Club. Tuke started in the club's learn to sail programme on Lake Manawai before progressing to the open seas of the Bay of Islands.

Around 170 of New Zealand's 201 Olympians arrived at Auckland Airport to rapturous applause yesterday morning before heading to The Cloud in the CBD to mingle with fans.

- Northern Advocate

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