Eilidh Doyle summed it up best when she said that, despite a more public homecoming in the centre of Edinburgh, Scotland’s Olympians and Paralympians relished the chance to meet fans face-to-face at homecoming event at the Oriam centre.
A day of celebrations also took in an appearance in Edinburgh’s Festival Square and a late-night awards ceremony, but before that, the Scots members of TeamGB took part in fun sports activities with schoolchildren from across the country.
Doyle, who told the young audience that the first thing she did when she returned from Rio was uot her 4x400m bronze medal round her dog’s neck, said: “All the support we have had makes such a big difference. People just want us to do well.
“The big thing I’ve noticed since I came back to Scotland is just how excited people are. People stopping you in the streets and in shops wanting to know about the experience. It’s just lovely and we get a buzz out of it. It’s been such a lovely homecoming for us.
“It’s nice to be able to stand and chat and have a bit of fun and join in the activities. Sometimes with a parade it’s from a distance, you get to see athletes but not to speak to them. I’ve had a great time wandering about chatting to people. It’s a great feeing to see how excited everybody is. I like these moments and I want more of them.”
The event was attended by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who congratulated the athletes on making the country proud.
She said: “On behalf of the people of Scotland, I would like to offer my congratulations to all of the Scottish Olympians and Paralympians. They have done themselves and their country proud and will have inspired the next generation of athletes.
“Today’s event was a fantastic way to celebrate the achievements of our athletes and it is hard to think of a more fitting venue for us to do this than at Oriam, Scotland’s brand new, world class national performance centre.”
Mel Young, Chairman of sportscotland, hailed the success of the athletes in Rio: “This was an inspirational day recognising the sensational performances of all of the Scottish athletes at this summer’s Olympics and Paralympics.
“We know that many of the athletes being celebrated today were inspired by seeing their own sporting heroes compete at previous Games.
“By giving the next generation the opportunity to meet their heroes at events like this, and letting them hear what it takes to succeed on the world stage, we hope it will ignite their own sporting passion and lead to a life-long love of sport.”
Tim Hollingsworth, CEO of the British Paralympic Association, said: “It was wonderful to see the success of our Scottish Paralympians, who created so many memorable moments at Rio 2016, celebrated on home soil in Edinburgh today.
“It proved to be a fitting opportunity to celebrate their achievements in a way that also recognises and gives thanks to everyone that has supported these ParalympicsGB athletes to succeed at the highest level.”
After their capital appearance, the day was rounded off by the inaugural Team Scotland Scottish Sports awards at the EICC. Paul Bush OBE, Chairman of Commonwealth Games Scotland, said: “Team Scotland is delighted to have played its part in the recognition of the fantastic achievements of Scots on Team GB and ParalympicsGB and the presence of the athletes at the inaugural Team Scotland Scottish Sports Awards in the evening was a fitting finale to a wonderful day of celebrations.
“These Awards in their new format have been a resounding success as we celebrate what has been a truly outstanding year for Scottish sport. The phenomenal achievements of 2016 augur well as we look ahead to the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 18 months’ time, where many of these athletes will go for gold for Team Scotland.”
Mark England, Chef de Mission for Team GB, added: “We are incredibly proud of our Scottish athletes. They have yet again contributed significantly to the Team GB medal tally and the wider efforts of the nation.
“I am sure everyone in Scotland is thrilled with their performances and this celebration will be a fitting way to recognise the incredible achievements of our athletes.”
Scotland’s para-triathlete Alison Patrick and her guide Hazel Smith show their medals to a young fan; Alison on the long jump; and cyclist Katie Archibald displays her gold medal. Pictures: sportscotland/Jeff Holmes