SOUTH Gloucestershire’s Queen of the slopes has received a hero’s welcome in a homecoming tour fit for an Olympic medallist.
Jenny Jones, who took bronze in the snowboarding slope style at Sochi 2014, was showered with gifts and cheered on by thousands of well wishers during an open top bus tour from Downend into Bristol, where she was treated to a civic reception at City Hall on Monday.
Schoolchildren, shopkeepers and pub-goers lined the streets of South Gloucestershire frantically waving their Union Jacks in support of 33-year-old Jenny, from Downend, while some watched the parade from their windows and a few daring drinkers stood on the roof of the Horseshoe pub. Motorists stopped their cars and bus drivers tooted their horns as the procession made its way through Fishponds and Stapleton carrying Jenny, members of her family and an entourage of press.
Jenny, who visited her former school Hambrook Primary before the tour, told the Gazette: “It has been fantastic. It has been a very different experience, not like anything I have done before.
“There were so many flags and so many people out cheering. I am very grateful for all the people who came out to support me.”
She admitted she had been a little worried no-one would turn up to the event, organised by South Gloucestershire and Bristol City councils.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “But people had made banners and flags. Hopefully it brightened up people’s Monday afternoon.”
Pete Wraith, 46, and his wife Sally, 48, from Downend, waited outside Downend School to catch a glimpse of Jenny, whose Sochi medal was the first Team GB has ever won on snow.
“We watched it all on the television,” said Mr Wraith. “We loved the winter Olympics and wanted to come out and see her today. It’s not often you get an Olympian from around here.”
Jenny’s uncle Michael Jones, from Westbury-on-Trym, was watching the bus tour with members of the family including one relative who came down from Cheshire for the occasion.
“We are very proud today,” he said. “It is very emotional.”
On board the bus, chairman of South Gloucestershire Council, Cllr Ian Boulton, said: “It has been a lovely day. Jenny is a really nice person who is enjoying the moment and quite rightly so.
“I think there will be a real legacy from the local connection that Jenny has with Hambrook and Downend.”
Adorned with banners proclaiming Jenny as the ‘pride of Bristol’, the packed bus made its way into the city centre where she posed for pictures and signed autographs on College Green.
Inside City Hall she was presented with a Bristol Blue glass plate by Lord Mayor Faruk Choudhury.
He said: “This is an exciting moment and a great day.
“It is an enormous pleasure to be part of this celebration and we are very lucky to have Jenny from our area.”
Jenny told the reception: “I would never have thought when I was 17 and trying snowboarding for the first time that I would be stood here with an Olympic bronze medal representing Bristol.
“It has been a crazy two weeks with lots of television interviews but I have most been looking forward to this, riding an open top bus through my home city.
“It has been really nice to see so much enthusiasm from children and adults who watched the Olympics and I hope it inspires more people to try not just snowboarding but any sport.”