Old Bonalbo silver medallist Jacqui Lawrence at the 'welcome home' in Sydney with sisters Rosalyn (left) and Kate (right).
Old Bonalbo silver medallist Jacqui Lawrence at the 'welcome home' in Sydney with sisters Rosalyn (left) and Kate (right). The Northern Star

Old Bonalbo welcomes Jacqui home

OLD BONALBO Olympian Jacqui Lawrence has stepped up a class since winning the silver medal in the K1 slalom event in Beijing.

Whileshe flew to China in 'cattle class', she returned to Sydney yesterdayin business class onboard a specially chartered Qantas jet.

Lawrencewas just a few rows behind Australia's gold medal winners, who were allluxuriating in first class, and was among the first athletes off theplane at a special, nationally televised reception for the Olympians.

Wearing her silver medal around her neck, whitewater princess Lawrence was greeted at theairport by her two sisters, Kate and Rosalyn, wearing distinctive greent-shirts with silver medals outlined in sequins and emblazoned with thewords, 'My sister won one of these'.

“I was emotional, again,” Lawrence said of her home-coming.

“When I arrived I could see through the window all these people waiting for us ... and I began tearing up.

“I am such a sook.

“Therehave been a lot of people congratulating me and everyone has beenreally nice, but I still don't feel like I have come out of thatOlympic bubble.”

Since claiming the silver medal on August 14, Lawrence has been trying to make sense ofthe surprise result, which may have shocked many outside of Australia'stight-knit canoeing and kayaking community.

“I couldn't sleep on the plane because I was thinking about coming back home,” she said.

“Ikeep saying to people that I didn't expect it (the silver medal), butthe race was what I was expecting, it was just the result that wasbetter than I expected.”

“I've been trying towork out what it means. I think it will have quite a good impact on thesport as a whole, because the last medal we won was back in 1992 withDanielle Woodward.”

But unlike some of herfellow Olympic medallists, such as swimmer Stephanie Rice who have beensigned up for six-figure sums, precious few sponsors have jumped on theJacqui Lawrence bandwagon.

Not yet, anyway.

Apart from a free gym membership, some funding from a Sydney hotel andsome generous time off from her employer Innovation Planning Australia,there hasn't been much interest shown by potential backers.

“But I hope so, for my sisters as well,” Lawrence said.

“We've tried to market ourselves as the three of us to sponsors as one of us is going to succeed at something.”

Back home at Old Bonalbo the community showed just how proud it was of the silver medallist and former local kayaker.

New signs were erected in time to greet Jacqui's parents, Sarah and Laurie, as they returned home from Beijing on Saturday.

They were both delighted with the new signs.

Col Keating, secretary of the Old Bonalbo and District Progress Association, was the organising guru who helped express the congratulations of the entire district.

Many generous donations were made by Bonalbo people and businesses, and were added to those made by local Old Bonalbo residents, so that the new signs were fully paid for and erected in time.

Old Bonalbo Primary School topped off the celebrations with afternoon tea for Jacqui's parents.

Lawrence will break out the calendar and plan a trip back to Old Bonalbo so she can thank the community for their support.

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