Com­mon­wealth Games ath­letes ar­rive home

The Southland Times - - FRONT PAGE - ANDREW VOERMAN Opin­ion World Weather Farm­ing

The bulk of New Zealand’s Com­mon­wealth Games team ar­rived back in Auck­land last night, hav­ing gone across the Tas­man and come home with 46 medals - 15 gold, 16 sil­ver, and 15 bronze.

That was a record for a Games on for­eign soil, and there were plenty of fam­ily, friends, and other well-wish­ers present at Auck­land Air­port to greet their heroes.

Gold-medal win­ning weightlifter David Liti was a pop­u­lar fig­ure, draw­ing loud cheers when he walked through the ar­rival gate and re­ceiv­ing a haka per­formed by stu­dents from One Tree Hill Col­lege, his old school.

Liti re­ceived the David Dixon award for out­stand­ing sport­ing spirit at the clos­ing cer­e­mony on the Gold Coast on Sun­day night, for help­ing his friend and weightlift­ing ri­val Lauititi Lui who in­jured him­self dur­ing their com­pe­ti­tion.

‘‘I’m just thank­ful that we were able to pull it off and bring it home,’’ said Liti, of his suc­cess in the 105kg+ event.

In­ter­viewed on stage at a re­cep­tion for friends and fam­ily held at a ho­tel in the air­port car park, Liti ap­peared a pop­u­lar fig­ure in the 250-strong team, and he couldn’t speak highly enough of the team spirit af­ter­wards. ‘‘The team was so good, eh,’’ he said. ‘‘You couldn’t ask for a bet­ter team. I would do the whole thing again just for the same team.’’

Chef de mis­sion Rob Wad­dell was sat­is­fied with the Ki­wis’ ef­forts dur­ing the past 11 days on the Gold Coast.

‘‘There’s al­ways some sur­prises, there’s al­ways some dis­ap­point­ments, and I know the ath­letes will go away and re­flect on that, but over­all it sort of bal­ances out, and it’s fan­tas­tic to come away with our best Games on for­eign soil.’’

When asked to sum up what the fort­night had meant for New Zealand, Wad­dell em­pha­sised the con­nec­tion be­tween the coun­try’s ath­letes and their com­mu­ni­ties.

‘‘For me it’s a priv­i­lege to be in this role, and to work with these young peo­ple who give ev­ery­thing they pos­si­bly can to make New Zealand proud.

‘‘When you cut to the very heart of it, that’s why they do it. No other rea­son, they love mak­ing their com­mu­nity, their whanau, their fam­i­lies all proud. It’s very, very mean­ing­ful and I think we’re mea­sured as one team.

‘‘We go as one team, we come back as one team, and the im­mensely pos­i­tive.’’

Dame Va­lerie Adams’ fifth Com­mon­wealth Games was a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence to the pre­vi­ous four, com­ing just six months af­ter the birth of her daugh­ter, Ki­moana.

She had been fo­cus­ing only on the date of her com­pe­ti­tion, April 13, where she claimed a sil­ver medal, and has no fu­ture plans, but was full of praise for the en­vi­ron­ment Wad­dell fos­tered.

‘‘The team spirit’s been amaz­ing. I give big ups to Rob, and the job his team has done, it’s been amaz­ing to be a part of the teams he has has been a chef de mis­sion for. He’s done an ab­so­lutely amaz­ing job.’’

Those who ar­rived back in Auck­land yes­ter­day all gath­ered on stage at the re­sult has been re­cep­tion for fam­ily and friends, putting those who had won medals along­side those who had come close, and those who hadn’t come close at all.

As one of the more ex­pe­ri­enced mem­bers of the team, Adams had some ad­vice for her fel­low ath­letes, whether they were among the happy or the sad.

‘‘In any com­pe­ti­tion you’re go­ing to have win­ners, you’re go­ing to have losers, you’re go­ing to have re­ally dis­ap­point­ing mo­ments, so much can hap­pen. What you can do is cel­e­brate, you can learn, and you can fo­cus on the next com­pe­ti­tion that comes up.

‘‘You can’t re­ally sit and dwell for too long, be­cause it eats too much en­ergy.

‘‘The aim of the game is to cel­e­brate the good times, if you didn’t do so well, learn from the mis­takes and what you could have done bet­ter, and make the changes nec­es­sary for the next com­pe­ti­tion.

‘‘That’s all you can do.’’

JA­SON DORDAY/STUFF

New Zealand Com­mon­wealth Games ath­letes are wel­comed back in Auck­land last night.

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