Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is an APNZ journalist based in Auckland.

Athletics: Golden girl touches down

A beaming Valerie Adams has been embraced by family and adorned with lei in a triumphant return to New Zealand ahead of her Olympic gold medal ceremony tonight.

Adams told media at Auckland International Airport she was overwhelmed by her welcome after flying in from Switzerland shortly before 6am.

She will receive her shot put gold medal tonight from the Governor-General at a public ceremony at The Cloud on Auckland's waterfront.

Adams said it was "a privilege to be here''.

"I didn't know the welcome was going to the this big. But I'm so happy just to see the kids and my family and it's very overwhelming.''

As well as hugs and lei from family and supporters, Adams was greeted by a stirring haka.

It has been more than a month since Adams won the shot put gold medal in London, after a drawn-out saga that saw disgraced Belarus shot putter Nadzeya Ostapchuk stripped of the title for drug use.

Adams said she was "very excited'' about tonight's ceremony.

"I have had a look at the medal, it's very, very beautiful. But I am looking forward to tonight and just getting it over and done with and enjoying the moment.''

The wait to receive the medal had its ups and downs.

"But today we're here and tonight's happening and we've just got to savour the moment and enjoy it.''

Adams said the best part was seeing her family.

"I have missed them since March and it's great to be home.''

The medal will be presented by Governor-General Lieutenant General Sir Jerry Mateparae, who is also a New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) patron and travelled to London to support the New Zealand team.

Of the 2500 tickets to tonight's ceremony, about 500 have been reserved for sponsors and 2000 were to be given away in draws and competitions.

The ceremony, which will feature a big fireworks display, is being jointly hosted by the NZOC and official partner ANZ.

Also there will be fellow gold medallists Mahe Drysdale, Eric Murray, Hamish Bond, Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie, and other medallists and members of the 2012 Olympic team.

The ceremony will be simulcast on a big screen at Frank Kitts Park in Wellington followed by a second major fireworks display on Wellington Harbour.

- APNZ

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