Tokyo Olympics: First athletes leave managed isolation to adoring fans at Christchurch Airport

The first athletes from New Zealand's best-ever Olympic team have been released from managed isolation and quarantine to their first official welcome ceremony at Christchurch Airport.

Hundreds of fans gathered to meet them and the large haul of medals around their necks.

Black Ferns Sevens star Ruby Tui was one of the many Olympians swamped by fans at the airport.

"I couldn't even get 20 metres, because there were so many kids, but the coolest thing is they were all young girls and they just wanted to play rugby," says Tui.

The younger generation has certainly been inspired by this most successful team in New Zealand's Olympic history. Some children were so overwhelming, they were reduced to tears.

"Very excited, I've watched the Olympics all day on the weekends," one child says.

More than two weeks after these athletes won their medals, this is the first time they've been able to meet some adoring Kiwi fans, but Olympians have mixed reactions about coming from the highs of Tokyo straight into two weeks of managed isolation.

"I just had a third child born when I was in MIQ, so get to meet them this afternoon," says rower Hamish Bond.

Trampolinist Dylan Schmidt. adds: "It was pretty much compete, pack, get on a bus, on a plane and then I was all alone." 

Crowds of people turned out to meet some of the Olympians.
Crowds of people turned out to meet some of the Olympians. Photo credit: Newshub.

Some will miss the comforts MIQ brought.

"It was awesome, not worrying about anyone else, free food at your door," says Black Ferns Sevens star Stacey Fluhler.

Rower Emma Twigg says: "It's going to be strange waking up tomorrow morning and not having a coffee delivered to my door." 

Twigg is reflecting on her gold medal win, after 20 years of hard graft and perseverance.

"Crossing the line, my words were 'holy shit', so at that moment, it was pretty surreal and it still is surreal," she says.

Schmidt, who is New Zealand's first-ever Olympic gymnastics medallist, feels the same.

"It's hard to let it sink in, but I think once I see my dad, my partner, my mum and all that, I think that's when it will finally really sink in," he says.

The first wave of athletes are now taking their golden grins home to family and friends.