New Zealand welcomed back its Paralympic heroes today, when more than 40 team members - including swimming golden girl Sophie Pascoe - returned from London this morning.
The athletes and management touched down at Auckland International Airport at 10.50am, and then dispersed throughout the country.
Gold medallists Pascoe, fellow swimmer Mary Fisher, and cyclists Phillipa Gray and Laura Thompson will stay in Auckland overnight, before returning to their hometowns tomorrow. Pascoe and Thompson will land in Christchurch at 5pm - Thompson will then fly to Invercargill - Gray is scheduled to arrive in Palmerston North at 4.10pm, while Fisher will be in Wellington at 2.30pm. The only gold medallist not coming home today is swimmer Cameron Leslie, who will return at a later date.
"It's been a very nice flight," beamed Pascoe (19), who added six medals in London to her four in Beijing 2008. "I sat in luxury in business class with the other gold medallists, so it was very nice being waited on and I had a bed.
"I'm a bit of a rookie in that area, so it was great."
Even after their long journey, the Paralympics contingent, which won a total of 17 medals, were overwhelmed by their airport reception in Auckland.
"It's amazing - this is the way Paralympic sport should be treated," said Pascoe. "It's a great feeling.
"To come home with 10, I guess now, medals hasn't really sunk in, to be honest, and it probably won't until I get home, and I'm around family and friends.
"But it's all coming together now with so many people here [to support us]."