Hero's welcome as SA's golden boys return home

Olympic gold medallists Chad le Clos (left) and Cameron van der Burgh (right) with Sports and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula. (Gallo)

Olympic gold medallists Chad le Clos (left) and Cameron van der Burgh (right) with Sports and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula. (Gallo)

Waving placards and blowing vuvuzelas, the duo were met with heartfelt cheer, flanked by the sports minister and other members of the South African swimming team.

Watch the video of their return here

"You are heroes!", "Halala Chad & Cameron!" and "Marry me, Chad!" read some of the signs held up by fans.

"I can't believe this is all for us! Thank you! Thank you!" Van der Burgh said as he wiped a tear from his eye.

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"I want to wish all the ladies here a happy Women's Day. Thank you so much for coming out to support us," Le Clos said, to rapturous applause and shrieks of excitement from younger fans.

Van der Burgh won the men's 100m breaststroke final, finishing in 58.46 seconds,  securing SA's first medal at the London Olympic Games.

Le Clos scored gold in the 200m butterfly in a time of 1:52.96, beating his childhood idol and multiple Olympics gold medallist Michael Phelps in the process.

The 20-year-old Durbanite then went on to bag silver in the 100m butterfly, finishing just behind Phelps in 51.44 seconds.

"Chad and Cameron are true heroes," Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula told a press conference following the pair's arrival. "Sport is the only thing that unites our nation and that is what they have done."

Van der Burgh said the experience had been "the biggest dream of my life.
It's emotional and overwhelming – my dream has come true".

Le Clos was of a similar mind: "When I beat Michael Phelps it was the greatest moment of my life," he said, before adding: "But this welcome is a close second!"

Mbalula also used the occasion to call for more funding of swimming and other fringe sports in South Africa.

"We must all put pressure in government to invest in sports. With practically zero budget we've beaten Australia. We must put money where there will be results and we will do even better," he said.

This was echoed by Le Clos, who said even more gold medallists can come from South Africa at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

"We have a platform to build now, we mustn't lose momentum. We can do even more in the future and ensure more success for South Africa," he said.

The rest of the Olympics team will arrive back in South Africa on Tuesday.

Nickolaus Bauer

Nickolaus Bauer

Nickolaus Bauer is the Mail & Guardian's jack of all trades news reporter that chases down stories ranging from politics and sports to big business and social justice. Armed with an iPad, SLR camera, camcorder and dictaphone, he aims to fight ignorance and pessimism through written words, photographs and videos. He believes South Africa could be the greatest country in the world if only her citizens would give her a chance to flourish instead of dwell on the negativity. When he's not begging his sub-editors for an extra twenty minutes after deadline, he's also known to dabble in the occasional poignant column that will leave you mulling around in the depths of your psyche. The quintessential workaholic, you can also catch him doing sports on the weekday breakfast show on SAfm and presenting the SAfm Sports Special over the weekend. Read more from Nickolaus Bauer

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