Petria leads home our Athens heroes
SYDNEY (AAP). ? Cheered on by tens of thousands of flag-waving supporters, Australia's Athens Olympians completed their last official 'lap of honour' at a Welcome Home Parade through Sydney's streets yesterday. Led by Mullumbimby's triple gold medal-winning swimmer Petria Thomas and team captain and sailor Colin Beashel, the athletes strolled up George Street, grouped in their sports, before attending an official reception in the Town Hall. There was plenty to celebrate after Australia won 49 medals at the Games. Many of the medallists took part in yesterday's parade. Governor-General Michael Jeffrey, NSW Premier Bob Carr, Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates and Lord Mayor Clover Moore were among the dignitaries at yesterday's welcome home for Australia's most successful Olympic team. NSW Governor Marie Bashir also addressed the team before Colin Beashel, Australia's opening ceremony flag bearer, joined closing ceremony flag bearer Petria Thomas to lead the parade. Other athletes involved included Athens gold medallists Ian Thorpe, Jodie Henry, Ryan Bayley, Sara Carrigan and Chantelle Newberry. The parade began at Circular Quay at midday, and ended at the Town Hall. It went off without a hitch, although there was a minor security breach when one woman burst past the barricades to give a hug and a kiss to Athens swim hero Ian Thorpe. Olympic team boss John Coates said team unity was a key factor in Australia's record success at the Athens Olympics. "Our athletes did great things in Athens, they did our small country proud," Coates said at the end of the welcome home parade. He said the 'sense of team' and the 'closeness of the group' were major factors behind Australia's record haul of 17 gold medals and fourth place on the medal table.