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