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Olympic gold still sinking in for Esposito

AAP logoAAP 29/08/2016 Daniel McCulloch

Australian Olympic champion Chloe Esposito admits she is still pinching herself after bringing home a gold medal from Rio.

The modern pentathlon superstar joined Australian Olympic teammates at the Sydney Opera House on Monday as hundreds of sports fans and school kids gathered to welcome them home.

Esposito said the gravity of her historic win only started to hit home when she touched down in Australia last week, and it still hasn't quite sunk in.

"Sometimes you're just sitting at home and thinking 'you're kidding, I actually just won the gold medal' and still I can't really believe it," she told those vying for a glimpse of their Olympic heroes.

"I was waiting for the day where everything just came together, because in pentathlon there's a lot of variables, and it was just my day.

"I knew I had done all the hard training - my brother and I had done it for so long - and it was just my time and I'm just so grateful it was on that day."

Crowds dolled up in their green and gold finery waved flags and belted out patriotic chants as the athletes took centre stage on the iconic steps of the Opera House.

Rowing legend Kim Brennan, who drew attention by choosing not to wear her gold medal when the Olympic team's flight returned from Rio, explained her decision.

Brennan said she'd struggled with feelings of personal failure and letting Australia down after returning home from her first Olympics without a medal.

"We've got so many athletes on our team who competed so valiantly and did us so proud and did so well," she said.

"I think we need to celebrate everyone equally for how well this team has worked together to do the country proud."

Cyclist and Olympic team captain Anna Meares said Aussie athletes had poured out blood, sweat and tears to do their country proud.

"For your support, we thank you. For the love and commitment of families, friends and teams behind all of us as athletes, we thank you," Meares said.

"And to all of you who got up at ridiculous hours to cheer us on, we thank you."

A colourful troupe of Brazilian dancers and drummers joined NSW Premier Mike Baird and Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore to rub shoulders with the Olympians and celebrate their efforts at Rio.

The team had earlier been treated to a special reception hosted by the governor-general at Admiralty House in Sydney.

"It has been an unbelievable moment when we've seen achievements and performance and we've seen the Aussie flag flying," Mr Baird told athletes on behalf of the cheering crowd.

"So to all of you, congratulations, thank you for what you've achieved. Thank you for representing our country so proudly. From all of us, we say thank you, well done."

A Japanese drum performance sounded an end to the celebrations with a nod to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, as athletes signed autographs and posed for photos with their adoring fans.

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