Swimming golden girl Stephanie Rice on Friday said her “hectic” post-Olympic life had led to her much criticised decision to skip welcome home parades for Beijing athletes this week.
Rice, 20, came under fire for “snubbing” fans with her no shows at this week’s parades in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide.
But the triple Olympic gold medallist said she made sure she attended the march in her hometown Brisbane on Friday.
“If I had it my way, I would have loved to have gone to all of them,” she said.
“But it’s kind of a time issue and trying to fit in everything with sponsorship as well has been hectic, so to be here in Brisbane has been great.”
Brisbane welcomed home its Olympic heroes today with thousands lining the streets for a parade through the CBD.
Australia won a total of 46 medals at the Beijing Olympics, a staggering 36 of them by Queenslanders.
The parade kicked off at the Queen St Mall at 12pm (AEST) on Friday, with the likes of Olympic medallists Rice, Sally McLellan, Anna Meares and Jessicah Schipper all donning the green and gold for the march.
Rice said she was still getting used to life in the spotlight after emerging as the darling of the Beijing Games.
“I definitely feel like I’ve learnt a lot about myself and about other people as well and I’m just trying to give back everything because I appreciate everything everyone has given to me,” she said.
But it will soon be business as usual for Rice.
“I’m getting back in the water again pretty soon in a couple of weeks,” she said.
“I’m really just trying to get everything done in the next couple of days so I can spend some time with my friends.
“I definitely don’t want to take too long out because then it’s so much harder to get back in (the pool) again.”
Olympic champion kayaker Ken Wallace received the keys to the city during the event, but was unsure what they unlocked.
“I had a bit of a joke… saying that get you free parking and stuff like that. But I’m not too sure,” he said.
“The (gold and bronze medals) are getting pretty dinged up, pretty scratched up from clunking together, but that gives them character I think.
“It definitely hasn’t sunk in yet. Maybe one day, when I’m telling the kids or grandkids when they are doing an assignment on some old guy who won an Olympic medal in 2008, maybe it might sink in.”
Champion swimmer Schipper said it felt like she was still in training after carrying her gold and two bronze medals around her neck.
“It’s starting to hurt my neck a little bit,” said Schipper who admitted she was already looking forward to London in 2012.
Meanwhile, 100m hurdles silver medallist McLellan said her achievement was going to take a couple years to digest.
“It’s really nice with all the support obviously, with all the media, and hopefully more sponsorship comes in,” said McLellan who will return to training in a month.