SINGAPORE - The final few members of Team Singapore's Olympic contingent returned home to a quiet and intimate reception at Changi Airport early this morning.
Donned in red and bearing the Singapore flag, between 30 and 50 supporters including athletes' families, Singapore National Olympic Committee (SNOC) officials, Singapore Sailing Federation officials and ministers Tan Chuan-Jin and Grace Fu formed the final homecoming party.
Said chef de mission Low Teo Ping: "Having come through with an incident-free outing, which was also topped by Joseph Schooling winning a gold medal with an Olympic record time and Majulah Singapura being played for the first time at the Olympics - this really gave us tremendous satisfaction of what we have done for Singapore.
"It has also set the tone for how we have to rethink sports and move forward at a very high level."
Among the athletes who returned on the 6.20am flight was two-time Olympic sailor Colin Cheng, who finished 20th out of 46 sailors in the men's Laser event.
"It was a good experience, and we campaigned long and hard for this. It's hard to believe it's all over - I've campaigned for eight years and it's all come down to 11/2 weeks of sailing," said Cheng. "Rio posed a very unique challenge with conditions both in shore and off shore, and we did spend a lot of time trying to acclimatise and get used to these conditions. But it was a difficult game out there and we tried our best, but we probably came away with lessons learnt and what needs to be done in the future."
Former gymnast Lim Heem Wei, who competed at the 2012 London Games, was also among the supporters in a show of solidarity between Olympic athletes past and present.
"It's a simple gesture to show how supportive we are. Regardless of how they fared, we're all behind them," said Lim, who was also representing the Athletes' Commission. "It's also a reminder that it's been four years - time has flown by!
"It's good to see that there are so many people here as well. The sport circle has grown and I hope we can continue going in this direction in supporting our athletes."
Caught up in the excitement and chaos of the athletes' arrival, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin played reporter for the day, filming and interviewing athletes, families and officials alike for a Facebook live video feed.
"Team Singapore is about everyone. Families have made a lot of sacrifices and it's important to learn from them how they feel," he explained. "It's good to remind ourselves what goes on behind that."