IF THE Olympics are all about the athletes, then the welcome home parades are all about the people.
And after huge crowds turned out in Sydney on Monday and Melbourne yesterday, Gold Coast kayaker Ken Wallace said he couldn't wait for Brisbane's turn tomorrow and then the Gold Coast on Saturday.
"Last time (after Beijing in 2008), I did a few of the parades and had an absolute ball," the 29-year-old said. "As athletes we get so entrenched in our training we forget about the amount of support we've got out there.
"When you get strangers come up to you and say 'you've inspired my kid to take up sport', or 'you've inspired me to get healthier', that makes it all worthwhile."
Wallace became just Australia's second individual kayak gold medallist in Beijing when he won the K1 1000, but due to a complicated qualification process, found himself in the K2 boat with fellow Gold Coaster David Smith in London.
And after having just eight weeks together to prepare, Wallace said he thought their effort in finishing fourth in the K2 1000 was full of merit.
"It's always a little disappointing not to get a medal, but both David and I gave it our best shot and I'm pretty proud of just being part of the Australian team."
While the 29-year-old didn't get his medal, he did get his girl.
Following up on a plan that had been months in the making, Wallace proposed to long-time girlfriend Naomi Shears on the banks of the Eton Dorney course not long after finishing his race.
He had actually worn the engagement ring on a chain around his neck during the final.
"It was always going to happen eventually ... I thought it would be a good opportunity," Wallace said.
After Shears said yes, Wallace said the pair asked Smith whether he had similar plans with his long-time girlfriend Nina Curtis who won a silver medal in the women's elliott class sailing competition, to go with the gold Smith ended up winning in the men's K4 1000.
"We thought he might ... Nina's a great girl. In the end he didn't but I heard four Aussie Olympians either popped the question or were proposed to at the Games," Wallace said. "Considering the Olympics are probably the biggest thing you're ever going to be involved in, it's probably the perfect place for one of the most important things you'll ever do in your life."
So after repesenting his country in two Games, is Wallace looking at number three in Rio de Janiero in 2016?
You better believe it.
"I'll definitely be pushing for Rio. I'll be 33, but the guy who won gold in the K1 in London was 35," Wallace said.
"Plus I did my best ever time in the K1 1000 just a couple of weeks before the Games."
In the meantime there's a couple of parades to go to.
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