Advertisement

London Olympians get long overdue applause during local celebration

Although fans weren’t there when they competed in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games, Londoners came out in droves to cheer on local athletes during Saturday’s Olympic celebration.

Hundreds came to London’s Olympic Celebration at Labatt Park, organized by Tourism London, to honour five of the City’s local talents.

London Olympians won big during this year’s games, earning four of Canada’s seven gold medals.

Read more: Here is every London, Ont., athletes’ performance at the Tokyo Olympics

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic games were delayed a year because of the pandemic, and due to the virus, all fans were barred from attendance and athletes had to leave the country as soon as their competition was complete.

The Games officially ended on July 23.

Story continues below advertisement

Zanth Jarvis, director of sport tourism with Tourism London, said once they started seeing Londoners succeed, they knew they needed to do something to celebrate.

“We were hoping to give them the recognition they deserved and get to know them,” Jarvis said.

“We had more people ask to get involved than we could say yes to, so it just goes to show how supportive this community is.”

Click to play video: 'Sprinter Andre De Grasse on becoming Canada’s most decorated male Olympian' Sprinter Andre De Grasse on becoming Canada’s most decorated male Olympian
Sprinter Andre De Grasse on becoming Canada’s most decorated male Olympian – Aug 23, 2021

Deputy Mayor Josh Morgan said London’s results at these most recent games will help inspire young Londoners to get involved in sports and see what is possible.

Story continues below advertisement

After a year-and-a-half of closures due to COVID-19, he was happy to see everyone come together for a good cause.

“It’s the first large mass gathering where we are celebrating for such a great reason.”

Not all local Olympians were able to be at this celebration, including Shelina Zadorsky and Jessie Fleming, members of Canada’s gold medal-winning women’s soccer team.

Read more: Tokyo Olympics officials have penalized 16 people for breaking COVID-19 guidelines

The Olympians in attendance included Olympic rower Jen Martins, decathlete Damian Warner, rower Susanne Grainger, swimmer Maggie Mac Neil and basketball player Miranda Ayim.

The five walked onto the field to roaring applause, something they sorely missed during this year’s games.

(Left to right) Maggie Mac Neil, Susanne Grainger, Jen Martins, and Miranda Ayim waving at crowd of supporters at the London Olympic celebration at Labatt Park on Saturday, August 28, 2021. Sawyer Bogdan / Global News
Londoners cheering on local Olympians during the London Olympic celebration at Labatt Park on Saturday, August 28, 2021. Sawyer Bogdan / Global News
London Olympic swimmer Maggie Mac Neil at the London Olympic celebration at Labatt Park on Saturday, August 28, 2021. Sawyer Bogdan / Global News

London Olympic swimmer Maggie Mac Neil won silver in women’s 4x100m freestyle relay, gold in the women’s 100m butterfly, and bronze in women’s 4x100m medley relay.

Story continues below advertisement

Mac Neil said she was happy to get the opportunity to celebrate her win with the whole community, just two hours before having to head back to school.

Click to play video: 'Canadian Soccer legend Christine Sinclair tackles foes on and off the field' Canadian Soccer legend Christine Sinclair tackles foes on and off the field
Canadian Soccer legend Christine Sinclair tackles foes on and off the field – Aug 19, 2021

“We knew people were tuning in more than they would normally, so that was nice, but to be able to hear fans cheering and be able to celebrate with my family is very special.”

Mac Neil, who made her Olympic debut this year, said she is getting used to her newfound fame and is proud of the spotlight it brought to her hometown.

“London was really on the map this Olympics and it’s really exciting we get to celebrate in person and see the support we felt in Tokyo,” she said.

Story continues below advertisement

Read more: Pure joy from loved ones as London, Ont.’s Damian Warner captures Olympic gold

London Olympic decathlete Damian Warner at the London Olympic celebration at Labatt Park on Saturday, August 28, 2021. Sawyer Bogdan / Global News

London Olympic decathlete Damian Warner won gold in the decathlon at Tokyo 2020, setting an Olympic record as he became just the fourth man to ever break the 9,000-point mark.

He also holds a bronze in the same event from Rio 2016.

Warner says he is thankful for the local support that cheered him on to win gold, adding it’s nice to see all of the support in person.

“It means a lot because a large portion of our success comes from people that never get talked about and the support from the community goes a long way, and I don’t think my success would have been as successful without that.”

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: 'Ontario decathlete Damian Warner wins gold, shatters records' Ontario decathlete Damian Warner wins gold, shatters records
Ontario decathlete Damian Warner wins gold, shatters records – Aug 5, 2021

He hopes that his win can set a good example for the young fans in the crowd and others at home and show them what is possible.

Londoners showing their support for London Olympic decathlete Damian Warner at the London Olympic celebration at Labatt Park on Saturday, August 28, 2021. Sawyer Bogdan / Global News
London Olympic rower Susanne Grainger at the London Olympic celebration at Labatt Park on Saturday, August 28, 2021. Sawyer Bogdan / Global News

London Olympic rower Susanne Grainger won gold in the women’s eight crew rowing event.

Story continues below advertisement

Grainger says she is excited to share her win with the community.

“I am really looking forward to it, this medal is not just about me, it’s about everyone and the support of Canadians who helped us get there, so it’s exciting to have that moment to share it,” she said.

“It’s really about Canada, it’s bigger than just me.”

Read more: Family, former coach of London, Ont., swimmer Maggie Mac Neil celebrate her Olympic achievements

London Olympic basketball player Miranda Ayim at the London Olympic celebration at Labatt Park on Saturday, August 28, 2021. Sawyer Bogdan / Global News

London Olympic basketball player Miranda Ayim competed in her third and final Olympic Games at Tokyo 2020.

For Ayim, celebrating at home is a nice change.

“All of my past Olympics, I have had to come back, grab my bag, and go back to my pro team, so to be able to stay in Canada and celebrate is pretty incredible,” she said.

Story continues below advertisement

Ayim, who plays in the French League, is also celebrating her team winning the French Championship.

(Left to right) Maggie Mac Neil, Susanne Grainger, Jen Martins, and Miranda Ayim waving at crowd of supporters cheering them on during the London Olympic celebration at Labatt Park on Saturday, August 28, 2021. Sawyer Bogdan / Global News

London Olympic rower Jen Martins finished in 10th place in the Women’s coxless four in rowing.

For Martins, seeing the hundreds of people who came out is a nice change from the empty stands during Tokyo 2020.

“It’s been awesome, we have not really had any celebration. We competed and went home, so this is awesome, to be able to come together with some of the London Olympians.”

Sponsored content