Australia's Winter Olympians have celebrated in Beijing's Bird's Nest Stadium after a successful Games where they explored unknown medal-winning territory.
A 30-strong contingent appeared in high spirits as they marched around the stadium at Sunday's closing ceremony, led by the flag-bearing ski-cross veteran Sami Kennedy-Sim.
There was plenty to celebrate as they prepared to leave China with four medals - the most they've ever won at a single Winter Games.
Yet team chef de mission Geoff Lipshut reckoned it could have been even better after a few medal hopes also misfired and his farewell message was that "there's no reason we can't build on what what has happened here."
The Aussies finished 18th on the medal table, a distinct improvement on their 23rd position in PyeongChang.
Their haul was topped by gold by Jakara Anthony - the first medal by an Australian female moguls skier - and by the country's first sliding medal, a silver won out of the blue by Jackie Narracott.
The others came from Scotty James, silver in snowboard halfpipe, and 21-year-old Tess Coady, Australia's youngest female winter medallist with bronze in slopestyle snowboard.
"I said at the start that if we managed four medals that would be fantastic because that's unknown territory for an Australian team," Lipshut said as he looked back on a uniquely challenging Games.
"The fact that there is that disappointment, even though we set a new mark in the medal tally, speaks for how far we've come in our Winter Olympic sports programs."
In a Games held amid a pandemic and against the backdrop of potential conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the Australians were among a global cast of athletes who, more than anything, did their best to offer an uplifting message.
After a montage of pictures in the closing ceremony which included freestyle skiers Oleksandr Abramenko, of Ukraine, and Russian Ilia Burov embracing on the podium, IOC president Thomas Bach told the athletes: "You embraced each other, even if your countries are divided by conflict.
"You overcame these divisions, demonstrating that in this Olympic community we are all equal - regardless of what we look like, where we come from, or what we believe in.
"This unifying power of the Olympic Games is stronger than the forces that want to divide us: you give peace a chance.
"May the political leaders around the world be inspired by your example of solidarity and peace."
Australian Associated Press
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