Two days after claiming the 2016 Olympic Men’s Golf gold medal in a captivating shootout with Sweden’s Henrik Stenson in Rio, Great Britain’s Justin Rose touched down at Heathrow Airport this afternoon to a hero’s homecoming.
As golf returned to the Olympics after a 112 year absence Rose started the week with an historic hole-in-one in his opening round of the tournament and finished it on top of the podium following a two shot victory over the Open Champion.
Proudly wearing his gold medal around his neck, Rose was met by fans and a media scrum when he landed in London, and the 36 year old was understandable effusive about the whole Olympics experience.
“I had been excited about it a long time. I’d kept a keen eye on my ranking to make sure I was eligible, so just to be down in Rio and be an Olympian, I wanted to treat as a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Rose.
Rose embraced the Olympics spirit with open arms, revealing he learned a lot from immersing himself with the other athletes and sports, with the opportunity to represent his country being the major draw card.
“It’s blown me away to be honest with you,” he said. “It’s been way more than I’d have expected, obviously to come away with Olympic gold is just absolutely mind blowing. I’ve seen many great athletes through the years have this honour and you know it makes you feel like you have definitely transcended your sport.
“The Olympics has such an appeal worldwide to sports fans, but not just sports fans. I think what I’ve really noticed is a whole nation gets behind you and that’s absolutely amazing.”
Golf fans could not have asked for a better final round as Major Champions Rose and Stenson battled it out for gold, tied at 15 under par after 17 holes, something the Englishman said was not great for his nerves.
Henrik is a good mate of mine, so I knew it was going to be incredibly difficult - Justin Rose
He doesn’t give away much, you know you don’t get the nickname ‘Iceman’ for nothing, so my caddie said to me at one point we’re going to have to out Stenson-Stenson today.”
“We just kept our blinkers on, kept playing as hard as we could and it came down to the last hole which wasn’t great for my nerves but was great for golf as a showcase in the Olympics for the first time.”
Rose described the medal ceremony as a “very surreal moment” in his career, as the Union Jack was raised and the national anthem played for the first time in his career.
“Honestly I think when you are down there (Rio) competing you have no idea of quite the support you have back home, and I think that that’s probably on purpose because if you sort of get outside of your bubble you realise how massive it is and you kind of want to stay focused on your sport,” said Rose
“But when it’s all said and done, and you’re able to achieve something and win gold, you kind of realise how much of an impact it does have. My mobile phone has been ringing off the hook and text messages from people I haven’t heard from for years and years, so it really does have that reach and it’s been absolutely amazing.”