A “spur-of-the-moment” decision to drive to Auckland Airport and be part of the fanfare as New Zealand Olympians returned home last week thrust a group of seven Raglan residents in the limelight themselves as they charmed onlookers, moving them to tears with an impromptu rendition of the national anthem.
Their performance — caught on camera — featured in TVNZ news highlights at 4.30pm the same day, and also on Te Karere, Sky and Te Kaea news programmes in the evening. And they made headlines in the Waikato Times the next morning.
It wasn’t a “huge effort” to celebrate the athletes’ homecoming, teacher Angela Massey told the Chronicle, but it was certainly a big day and an unforgettable one. “The kids were beside themselves … so inspired.”
She told them there was no reason they couldn’t get a gold medal themselves one day. “They (our athletes) had a dream too,” Angela reminded her young twins Jack and Sasha Kirkwood who were buzzing with excitement.
Friend Margaret Dillon was equally enthused. “There was no way my boys were going to school, this was a day they are going to remember for the rest of their lives,” she told reporters at the airport.
Her sons Awatea and Sean — Raglan Area School students like Jack and Sasha — were pictured in Thursday’s Waikato Times flanking rowing gold medallist Hamish Bond and proudly displaying their RAGLAN LOVES YOU poster.
They’d all left home at 6am after what Angela describes as a spur-of-the-moment decision the night before to welcome athletes when they touched down at 9am on the first flight back from the Games. Friend and former Raglan Area School teacher Trish Bush — back briefly from teaching in Dubai and “passionate about all things New Zealand” — joined them.
A traffic jam on the motorway very nearly stymied their efforts but they made it, albeit a bit late, and a TVNZ news team “spun round” and focused on them — New Zealand flags and banners in hand — at the end of an interview with BMX silver medallist Sarah Walker.
Moments later, recalls Angela, “the teacher in me” got everyone singing the national anthem in te reo Maori and English. “It was just magical … people had tears in their eyes.”
The small Raglan group waited too for the arrival of further Games competitors and chef de mission Dave Currie on the second flight at 11am. And when 10-year-old Jack was singled out by reporters, he told them he was there because Dave Currie was from Raglan.