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Hundreds brave downpours to welcome home Olympic hero Thomas
10:30pm Tuesday 21st August 2012 in Sport
MORE than 500 people braved torrential downpours to welcome Olympic hero Kristian Thomas back to Halesowen .
The Earls Gymnastics Club star, who played a key role as Britain won an historic team bronze at London 2012, returned to the Furnace Lane club for the first time since the Games and a civic reception earlier this evening with guests including the Mayor of Dudley.
But the British weather threatened to seriously disrupt proceedings as heavy rain lashed the venue in the hour leading up to Thomas’ arrival.
They had just about eased by the time he turned up in style in the back of an Audi V8 flanked by two Olympic torch bearers, to be greeted by hundreds of cheering fans who had stood through the showers at the entrance to the gym.
Hundreds more club members packed inside the venue as Thomas was taken on a whirlwind trip of radio, television and press interviews before getting to meet his adoring supporters.
Speaking afterwards, Thomas admitted the whole occasion had come as a huge surprise after he had been kept in the dark by club chairman Jon Caulwell.
He said: “It’s been absolutely amazing, I really didn’t expect this sort of welcome.
“Jon hadn’t really kept me in the loop of what was going on. He said wear your tracksuit, wear your medal and have a smile ready and it’s pretty much all he told me!
“He did mention the mayor would be here and it makes it kind of special but I didn’t know my family was all going to come and everyone involved in the club was going to be here.
“It’s pretty special.”
Furnace Lane was closed to traffic to cope with the crowd, which also included parties from the town’s other sporting clubs.
With the medal draped proudly round his neck, Thomas spent plenty of time chatting to fans, posing for photographs and signing numerous autographs.
Addressing those gathered inside the gym, where he has trained since the age of five, he thanked his family and his coaches for their support.
He said: “I would not be the gymnast I am today without the experiences and help of my coaches.
“I have always had strong support from my family. They are the ones who drove me to the gym when I was younger.”
In his speech, Mayor of Dudley councillor Melvyn Mottram took time to hail the Earls hero’s stunning performances in London.
He said: “How Kristian held his nerve and showed such poise and strength is an inspiration to us all.
“He is a true icon for the Black Country and will be an inspiration for a new generation.”
Club chairman Caulwell, who along with other club members worked tirelessly in organising the reception, said the evening had been a great success.
He added: “I think Kristian was a little overwhelmed by it all and perhaps a little bit embarrassed by it, he didn’t expect anything like this.
“It’s great to see the whole club and community coming out to support us.”