Sat, September 22, 2012
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Canadian Olympic athletes take parade among cheers in Toronto

2012-09-22 03:29:20 GMT2012-09-22 11:29:20(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

Canada's Clara Hughes waves to fans during the Olympic Heroes Parade in Toronto, Canada, Sept. 21, 2012. About 200 Olympians and Paralympians of Canada attended the parade. (Xinhua/Zou Zheng)

Summer Mortimer (L), paralympic multi-medallist, and Adam Van Koeverden, silver medalist of canoe wave to fans during the Olympic Heroes Parade in Toronto, Canada, Sept. 21, 2012. About 200 Olympians and Paralympians of Canada attended the parade. (Xinhua/Zou Zheng)

Rosie MacLennan, gold medalist of trampoline, waves to fans during the Olympic Heroes Parade in Toronto, Canada, Sept. 21, 2012. About 200 Olympians and Paralympians of Canada attended the parade. (Xinhua/Zou Zheng)

Mark Oldershaw (R), bronze medalist of canoe, waves to fans during the Olympic Heroes Parade in Toronto, Canada, Sept. 21, 2012. About 200 Olympians and Paralympians of Canada attended the parade. (Xinhua/Zou Zheng)

Paralympic swimmer Benoit Huot shows his medal to fans during the Olympic Heroes Parade in Toronto, Canada, Sept. 21, 2012. About 200 Olympians and Paralympians of Canada attended the parade. (Xinhua/Zou Zheng)

It's been weeks since the London Games ended, but the Olympic spirits ran high once again in the Canadian city of Toronto as athletes paraded downtown to meet thousands of their loyal fans on Friday.

More than 200 Canadian Olympic and Paralympic athletes gathered in Toronto one last time for the Olympic Heroes Parade, which gave fans a chance to officially welcome home athletes for the first time on Canadian soil and congratulate them in person for their achievements at the London Games.

Athletes made their way along the parade route -- some on foot, and some packed in the 25 trucks, convertibles, London cabs and a double-decker bus -- waving at the sea of cheering and screaming fans.

Michelle Stilwell, wheelchair sprinter who defended her Paralympic gold medal in the women's 200 metres this year, says the parade sums up what the Olympics are all about for her. Besides getting to compete, it's also a chance for her to share her experience.

"When I go out to race and when I'm competing, I have so many people that have supported me along the way and people that I know personally and people that I don't know," she said. "So many words of encouragement, and to be able to come out and share that with everyone is just so special."

Olympians took the time to sign autographs, take pictures, mingle with fans, and soak in all the attention before the parade started.

Track and field Olympian Crystal Emmanuel says seeing all the fanfare is a source of motivation for her.

"It makes us feel great that we can see that people are coming out and supporting us and giving us the confidence to go out there and do well once again for Canada," said Emmanuel.

Canada took home one gold, five silver and 12 bronze medals at the London Games this year, but most fans at the parade weren't too concerned with the results.

"I think they did well. I mean it's a competitive world out there," Olympic fan Maria Gruending said. "In my opinion, it's not important to come back with a gold every time. I think they represented us very well in their sportsmanship and their good attitudes are always appreciated."

Everyone was out showing their appreciation to their hometown heroes out on the streets, and some even took home souvenirs. Madeline Yovanovski, a young Olympic fan, came out hours ahead of the parade to collect autographs on her Canadian flag. When asked what she'll be doing with it, the 15-year-old girl said she's going to "frame it probably, I've been going all over trying to follow them."

This marks the end of a busy week for Canadian Olympic and Paralympic heroes who were awarded medals by the prime minister, and visited a number of schools and hospitals earlier this week. The parade, which was followed by a gala dinner to induct athletes into the Olympic Hall of Fame, officially capped off the Olympic celebrations.

The London Olympics took stage from July 27 to Aug. 12, and the Paralympic Games ran from Aug. 29 to Sept. 9.

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