French Olympic team receive heroes welcome

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Athletes returning to Paris from Beijing were welcomed by hundreds of fan at the airport on Monday.

26 August 2008

PARIS -- Hundreds of fans gathered at Roissy airport near Paris on Monday to welcome home French triple-Olympic medal winner Alain Bernard and the country's swimming team.

Bernard is the first Frenchman in 56 years to win gold in the 100 metres freestyle on 14 Aug.

He also took silver in the 4x100m freestyle relay - narrowly defeated by Michael Phelps's victorious US squad - and bronze in the 50m freestyle.

The 25-year-old, along with members of the team - including double bronze winner Hugues Duboscq (100m and 200m breaststroke) and Amaury Leveaux (silver in 50m and 4x100 relay freestyle) - received a heroes welcome.

"My life has changed. It is the most beautiful title you can win in swimming," Bernard told waiting journalists.

The swimmer said he had achieved his objectives and was looking forward to preparing for London in 2012. He then joked: "But now I'm going to meet some friends and have a few lie-ins."

Bernard was part of a French Olympic team which brought back 40 medals in total, seven of which were gold. They finished 10th on the Beijing medals table.

Despite the time difference, a total of 36 million people watched the Beijing Olympics on French television, according to a media monitoring organisation on Monday.

The highest audience of 4.3 million was recorded for a fencing bout on 17 Aug, where the French sabre team beat America to win gold.

In the Athens Games in 2004, France won 33 medals, including 11 gold to finish seventh on the medals table, and in Sydney 2000 they achieved 38 medals, including 13 in gold, to finish sixth.

[AFP / Expatica]

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