Venezuelan fencer Ruben Limardo received a hero’s welcome when he returned home Monday after winning a gold medal at the London Olympics.
The 27-year-old fencer rode atop a truck through the streets of Caracas, wearing his medal and waving to a crowd.
”I share my Olympic medal with all of you,” Limardo said. ”I love you a lot.”
He signed autographs while supporters waved flags.
President Hugo Chavez has declared Limardo a national hero.
Limardo’s gold medal was Venezuela’s first since boxer Francisco ”Morochito” Rodriguez won gold in the light flyweight division in the 1968 games.
Limardo was met at the airport by dozens of cheering fans amid flags and balloons. In tears, he said: ”I never imagined they’d receive me like this.”
”I achieved my dream and a dream that Venezuela also hoped for,” Limardo said on television. He wore a large flag draped around his shoulders, and people crowded around to hug him and photograph him.
Rodriguez, who won the boxing gold medal in 1968, was among those who welcomed Limardo at the airport.
Chavez announced last week that he will present Limardo with the country’s highest honor, the Order of the Liberator, and will give him a replica of a sword once used by South American independence hero Simon Bolivar.