Figure skater Patrick Chan of Toronto holds his 2018 Olympic gold medal after arriving from South Korea at Vancouver International Airport on Monday. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Fans greet returning Olympians in Vancouver

Cassie Sharpe from Vancouver Island brings home the gold medal in freestyle skiing halfpipe

A crowd of lively fans dressed in red, waving Canadian flags and singing the national anthem flocked to Vancouver’s airport Monday to greet Canadian Olympic gold medallists Cassie Sharpe and Patrick Chan, as well as other athletes returning from the Pyeongchang Winter Games.

Chan said it was just beginning to sink in that he’d won gold in the team skating event.

“It’s a nice feeling,” the Toronto skater said with a grin, adding that he plans to leave it in his suitcase for a little while.

“I’ll take a look at it every once in a while. It’s sometimes better to keep it away and then just enjoy it once in a while.”

Chan, 27, is now set to retire, although he said he would continue to be involved in skating and perform at shows. He also hopes to eventually open his own skating school that will bring together Vancouver-area coaches and athletes.

“I’ve waited for so long, in a way,” said Chan, who recently relocated to Vancouver. “It’s a new beginning and a rebirth.”

But first, he’ll enjoy a rest.

“I’m going to just take a week to not do anything, not be a skater, not be an athlete and just enjoy B.C., enjoy everything I love about this place,” he said. “I miss all the hikes that I’ve been going on.”

Sharpe, from Comox, also said she was excited to be back in her own bed, cook herself some food and “just hang out.” Her gold medal in freestyle skiing halfpipe was tucked into the pocket of her Team Canada sweater.

“It’s phenomenal,” she said. “It feels even better to hold it on Canadian soil. It feels good bringing it home.”

“Personally, it’s a bucket list thing. How many people get to say they won gold at the Olympics?” she added. “But then of course, feeling the pride and feeling everybody from Canada being so proud of you and being so happy that you’re bringing it home to them … it’s incredible.”

Athletes were returning home across the country Monday with star ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir slated to arrive in London, Ont., later in the evening and flag-bearer Kim Boutin among the Olympians touching down in Montreal.

Women’s hockey veteran Meghan Agosta was wearing her silver medal as she arrived in Vancouver. She said it was “unfortunate” that the final game against the U.S. ended in a 3-2 shootout loss.

“When it comes down to a shootout, anything could happen,” she said. “But I’m so proud and happy with every single one of us girls in that room, we showed a lot of character, a lot of resilience.”

Asked about her teammate Jocelyn Larocque’s initial refusal to wear her silver medal on the ice, Agosta said it was the “heat of the moment.

“The decision that she made, it wasn’t any ill will,” said Agosta. “She didn’t mean to disrespect anybody. We train so hard and we went there for gold. It was unfortunate that we ended up losing, but Jocelyn Larocque, she’s an amazing leader, an amazing person, a great teammate.”

Agosta took a year off from her job as a Vancouver police officer to train for the Olympics. She said she returns to the force in May.

Bobsled pilot Chris Spring of Priddis, Alta., who didn’t bring home a medal, said he was excited for his fellow athletes who did. He said he was driving well during the two-man race but made a poor choice of runners on the first day, and his efforts to be aggressive on the second day didn’t pan out.

“Huge credit to the coaching staff and everyone behind the scenes, the mechanics,” he said after arriving in Vancouver.

“I was excited to leave,” he added with a laugh. “If you have a great Games, you’re excited to come home and share your results with Canada here, with family and friends. If you don’t have a great result at the Games, then you’re also pretty excited to get home.”

— With files from Laura Kane in Vancouver

The Canadian Press

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