Mullum offers butterflies to the madam

By STEPHANIE FORESTER

PETRIA THOMAS was never going to handle her homecoming with anything less than humility. And a big heart. The triple gold Olympian was yesterday welcomed home to Mullumbimby with a parade that could for all the world have been a family reunion. Hundreds of school kids from around Byron Shire turned up for the festivities, many flapping butterfly wings in honour of the butterfly swimming champion. Spaghetti Circus kids cartwheeled and twirled at the head of the parade, followed by champion high school athletes Liam Bruce and Adam Szelak. Hot on their heels were representatives from The Giants premiership footy teams, the under-15s and the first A-graders to win a grand final in 44 years. Then came the golf buggies, the first ferrying Byron Bay's kayaking Olympian and silver medallist Nathan Baggaley, the second with Mullumbimby High's most famous former student, Petria Thomas. There were congratulations all round once they reached the stage and were joined by Olympic artist John Dahlsen, who was one of four Australians to have their work displayed in Athens. But the afternoon belonged to Petria. Gloria Saunders read a poem she'd written especially for 'our golden girl', and high school music teacher Margaret Hatch conducted the girls' choir to lyrics penned for their hero. Petria is not just Mullumbimby's very own Olympian, she's loved for the woman she's grown to be. Really. They weren't kidding when they sang 'her name will last forever', and they meant every word when they said she was a 'legend' and 'our inspiration'. High school acting principal Ray Linabury was the on-stage host and MC for the afternoon's highlight: Petria Thomas ? This Is Your Life.



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