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"I was star-struck by Tom Jonas": Humble heroes feted by hometown crowd


Adelaide has celebrated South Australia’s Olympic athletes in style as the returned champions reflected on the meaning of success in Rio – with some still adjusting to life in the public glare.

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King William Road, King William Street and War Memorial Drive were temporarily closed this morning to accommodate the contingent of Olympians travelling with a police escort to Victoria Square for a public parade, with about 1000 people gathering at midday to cheer on the athletes, who were greeted by a troupe of brightly dressed Brazilian dancers.

They earlier attended an official reception at Adelaide Oval hosted by Premier Jay Weatherill and Lord Mayor Martin Haese.

SA’s contingent of 49 athletes punched above their weight in Rio, winning 11 of Australia’s 29 medals.

Several athletes addressed the media, reflecting on life now that they have returned home, and what it means to succeed in elite sport.

Sporting three newly-healed Olympics-themed tattoos, South Australian swimmer and surprise gold medallist Kyle Chalmers was a clear crowd favourite, telling reporters he was only now getting used to being recognised in the street.

“Before going away [to the Olympics] nobody knew who I was, and I could walk the streets and do what I want,” said Chalmers.

“Now, I like doing simple things like going to the IGA to get milk for mum – and everyone’s stopping you and asking for photos and signatures.

“It’s a whole new experience for me.”

The Olympic champion and Port Adelaide Football Club Ambassador – whose father Brett played for Port and the Crows – said he had been star-struck interacting with Port players in the lead-up to the games.

“I’m someone that gets pretty nervous when I’m talking to elite athletes,” said the swimmer.

“I got to sit with Tom Jonas up here and watch a game earlier in the year – I was pretty star-struck.

“Sharing experiences with him really made me more comfortable around older athletes and made me realise that those guys are just humans like me.”

He said a secondary career in the AFL for Port would be “an absolute dream – but I probably don’t have the skills and, you know, I can slowly see my skills dropping away as I haven’t been playing this year”.

“My coordination’s going down pretty quickly.”

Kyle Chalmers shows off his new Olympic tattoos. Photo: David Mariuz/AAP

Kyle Chalmers shows off his new Olympic tattoos. Photo: David Mariuz/AAP

Chalmers said getting the Olympic rings emblazoned on his torso over the weekend, by an early-career tattoo artist friend of his, was “one of the more painful experiences of my life”.

“And then I went, two days after, and got the Olympic motto on my forearm. And then, it was the 31st Olympics, so I got that on my wrist. I went pretty hard on the whole Olympic tattoos [thing].

“If I’m lucky enough to get selected in 2020 I definitely be putting it somewhere on me.”

He said he didn’t have his gold medal with him this morning, but had the tatts – “so that proves I went to the Olympics”.

Anna Meares – Australia’s Olympic flagbearer and the country’s most successful cyclist – said she felt good about her performance in Brazil, where she won bronze in the keirin event, but came a disappointing tenth place in the sprint.

I’ve got to organise a trip home to see my mum and dad, to collect my dog Bruce, who is now fat – thanks mum and dad for that!

She said she had been warned against a “skewed” ideal of success in elite sport.

“You can’t get caught up in the whole ‘the only level of success for sport is winning’ – even though we all want that,” she said.

“Believe me, as an athlete, that’s what you want, but you have to also appreciate, and give some realistic reflection to the fact that we’re out there giving our best.

“And what you don’t want to have happen is people being criticised in any form … for delivering their best performances when it’s under-par of what we have in our heads and our ideals of what success is in sport.

“Success is measured by what you want to achieve and your goals as an individual person, but because we look at sport so holistically [and] as a nation we love it so much, and we want to see ourselves successful on the international stage, sometimes that perspective can be skewed.”

Australian Olympic athletes, Catherine Skinner, Kyle Chalmers and Tom Burton pose for photos at the Adelaide oval in Adelaide, Thursday Sept. 1, 2016. (AAP Image/David Mariuz) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Chalmers embraces fellow Olympic medallists Catherine Skinner and Tom Burton at Adelaide Oval. Photo: David Mariuz / AAP

Fellow cyclist Annette Edmondson, who suffered a serious crash in February while training for the Games in the Adelaide Hills, said she had mixed emotions about the Olympic campaign.

“It was a bit of a mixed emotions kind of trip,” she said.

“It’s not the end of the world, even though it felt like it that night.

“Obviously we were there to do a job and we didn’t quite get that done, through a series of unfortunate events.

“There’s plenty more opportunities out there, and this is when you’ve got to kind of think why are are doing this? Is it because we want to get results, or is it because we enjoy it?

“That’s when the passion comes out, and I’m sure you’ll see a few more of the girls back on the bike.”

Edmondson said she would now spend some time relaxing before returning to the track.

“I’m off to Japan in a couple of weeks with a couple of friends and then Steph Morton, sprinter, and I are going road tripping across the north of Australia in October,” she said.

“We’re looking forward to seeing some of this country seeing as we spend so much time elsewhere.”

Meares said she was glad to be back in Adelaide.

“The first couple of days after I came home I just slept,” she said.

“It’s so nice to sleep in my own bed.

“I [will] crash my sister’s house, because it’s her birthday this weekend, and I’m going to see my siblings for the first time in almost a year.

“And then I’ve got to organise a trip home to see my mum and dad, to collect my dog Bruce, who is now fat – thanks mum and dad for that.

“[Bruce] has very much loved the life that he’s led at home with them.”

Decked out in green and gold, Victoria Square onlooker Joanne Ness said she took her kids to the reception to see Rio silver medallist walker Jared Tallent.

Tallent finished second in the 50km walk at London in 2012 but was later presented with a gold medal after Russian winner Sergey Kirdyapkin was found guilty of doping.

“He’s a great role model for clean sports,” Ness said.

-additional reporting by AAP

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