Warm and furry welcome

Patrick was pretty pleased to see his mother — even if he was unaware she was now a world champion.

It was clear the bearded collie missed Erika Fairweather over the past month as he leapt towards her for a cuddle outside Dunedin Airport yesterday morning.

Fairweather, 20, was thrilled to be reunited with him too — after having hugged her friends and family as they celebrated her return.

She was stunned by the "unexpected" reception from pupils from her former school, Trinity Catholic College, who greeted her with a moving kapa haka performance.

"They’ve been so supportive of me my whole swimming career and to have them even when I’m not at school any more is really special," Fairweather said.

The Neptune swimmer won gold in the 400m freestyle on the opening day of the World Aquatics Championships in Doha and backed it up with a silver in the 200m freestyle and bronze in the 800m freestyle.

She also set a national record in the 4x200m freestyle relay, alongside Dunedin’s Caitlin Deans, and qualified for the Olympics in all four events.

"I was hoping to maybe snag one, but to come home with three is just unbelievable," Fairweather said.

Dunedin world champion swimmer Erika Fairweather celebrates being reunited with her bearded...
Dunedin world champion swimmer Erika Fairweather celebrates being reunited with her bearded collie, Patrick, outside Dunedin Airport yesterday. Photo: Craig Baxter
Having been concerned about getting her medals home earlier in the week, Fairweather packed them in a carry-on and had a change of heart about storing them in the back of the closet.

"I was thinking more about this because I kind of gave a really lame answer ... Maybe I will have them out for a little bit at least.

"I’m not sure where, but somewhere nice."

While she was still soaking up her win, Fairweather was excited to see what she could achieve in Paris, especially considering some of the big names skipped this year’s world championships.

"I think it’s a big confidence booster going forward.

"Obviously there were a couple of girls missing from our field, but I think last year I proved that I am competitive with them, so it’ll be an exciting race."

There was no time for rest yesterday. Fairweather sat a summer school biology exam in the afternoon and then jumped back in the pool later on.

However, she said she would take a break to celebrate this weekend.