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Olympics Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir among Olympians welcomed back by fans in airports across Canada

Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue pose for a photo with a crowd of well-wishers as they arrive home from the Olympics at the airport in London, Ont., on Feb. 26, 2018.

Geoff Robins/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Hundreds of fans filled up the tiny arrival section of the airport in London, Ont., belting out the national anthem and waving Canadian flags to welcome ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

The pair signed flags, signs and Tim Hortons cups in what will be their last Olympic homecoming, as they retire from professional ice dancing after winning two sets of gold medals at the Pyeongchang Games.

Their first-place wins in ice dancing and team figure skating in South Korea brought their total Olympic medal count to five, making them the most decorated figure skaters in the history of the Games.

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Similar cheering crowds greeted Canada's athletes in Vancouver, too, where gold medalists Cassie Sharpe and Patrick Chan returned on Monday.

In London, Moir and Virtue were shocked by the number of people who came out to meet them.

Olympic medallists Patrick Chan, Cassie Sharpe and Meghan Agosta were among the athletes who returned from Pyeongchang in Vancouver on Monday The Canadian Press

"We're tired but this is so exciting for us, we've been thinking about this moment being back home since we won the gold medal," said Moir, who is from nearby Ilderton, Ont. "It's been unbelievable, we haven't come down from Cloud 9."

Moir said representing Canada had only gotten more special in his third Olympics with Virtue.

"None of the magic had worn off," said Moir, who together with Virtue was Canada's flag-bearer at the opening ceremony. "If anything, you feel more patriotic and we understand more what it means to represent Canada and wear the flag on our back."

"It's special and sentimental because it's been 20 years in the making and it's the culmination of it all competitively," Virtue added. "It couldn't have gone any better for us."

Asked when they think they'll come down from the high of winning, Virtue replied: "Do we have to?"

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The duo have been melting hearts since they claimed gold at the 2010 Vancouver Games, but this year they garnered a whole new group of fans who swooned over their chemistry on the ice. Some have suggested they might be in a romantic relationship – a rumour the athletes have been denying for years.

Resident Cassie Caranci, who came to the airport early to get a spot at the front of the packed arrival section, said she has been following the skaters' careers since they started.

"It was really important for me to see them come here," Caranci said. "Seeing them in the last Winter Games and then seeing them make their comeback, I'm a proud Londoner."

In Vancouver, 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."

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Chan, 27, will also retire from competition, 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 B.C. "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.

Sharpe, from Comox, B.C., 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."

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."

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