Heroes of Tokyo Games soak up adoration

Tracey FerrierAAP
Thousands of fans in Brisbane welcomed home Cate Campbell (L) and her fellow Olympians.
Camera IconThousands of fans in Brisbane welcomed home Cate Campbell (L) and her fellow Olympians. Credit: AAP

Queensland's Olympic and Paralympic heroes have finally been able to bask in the glow of public adoration, making up for what they didn't get in Tokyo.

Thousands of fans who watched their grand achievements from afar have gathered in the heart of Brisbane to say well done - in person.

The gesture was no small thing for the state's athletes who, thanks to the pandemic, had to compete in empty venues that should have been swollen with excited spectators.

Swim star and Australian Olympic team co-captain Cate Campbell won two gold and a bronze in Tokyo - the fourth Games at which she won medals. She's yet to make a call on whether she'll have another crack in Paris, in three years' time.

Regardless, the cheers of the fans who greeted her in Brisbane's King George Square on Friday are going straight to the pool room.

"This is so special to be able to share our Olympic memories with the people who have cheered us on from back home," Campbell said.

"I'm so pleased to see so many people ... we're socially distanced here today but we've never been closer together."

Friday's welcome home ceremony came more than two months after the Olympics wrapped up, and more than a month after the Paralympics ended.

For Paralympian Lakeisha Patterson, who won gold in the S9 400m freestyle, her victory still feels sparkly and new.

It wasn't an easy road to Tokyo for her, having been plagued by illness in the lead-up. After her win, by just .08 of a second, she joked to reporters that she felt "more fried than a chook from KFC".

She relished the opportunity on Friday to relive that victory - the first gold medal of Australia's Tokyo Paralympics campaign. By the time the sun set on that first day of competition, Australia had six shiny yellow medals in the bag.

"It really was a golden day," she said. "It was such an phenomenal experience to be a part of and to just show the rest of Australia what we can do."

There was a buzz of excitement among the athletes, as they turn their minds to Paris.

Champion swimmer Ariarne Titmus resumed training this week, hoping the Paris Games will see her add to the two gold, one silver and one bronze that she won in Tokyo.

"I want to ... make sure I am at my very very best for that. I knew what the feelings were like at Tokyo, and I want to feel that again."

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the athletes' courage and determination would inspire the kids of today to become the champions of the Brisbane Olympics in 2032.

"Out there somewhere today, across Queensland or in our crowds, are our future Olympians," she said.

"And we are going to do everything we can to inspire you, and drive you, and one day you will be like our fantastic heroes here today, representing Queensland on the world stage."

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