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Canada's Olympians, Paralympians celebrate Sochi performance with Calgary party

CALGARY - When the top of Calgary's tower is on fire, something Olympic is happening in the city.

Canada's Olympians and Paralympians who competed at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia marched, danced and wheeled across downtown Friday.

The natural gas cauldron atop the Calgary Tower, which was constructed for the 1988 Winter Olympics in the city, is re-ignited for special occasions.

The Canadian Olympic Committee previously held post-Games parades in Toronto after the 2012 Summer Games in London and in Montreal following the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C.

Many of the athletes who competed in Sochi didn't travel far for Calgary's turn at the celebrations because they train at the 1988 facilities still in operation.

Canada won 25 medals, including 10 gold, to finish fourth in the overall medal standings in Sochi. It was the country's second-best performance at a Winter Games behind the 26 medal earned as host team in 2010.

The Paralympians captured 16 medals in Sochi, including the seven gold that ranked Canada among the top three countries.

Olympic champion bobsledders Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse, para-alpine gold medallist Josh Dueck, women's hockey veteran Hayley Wickenheiser and two-time moguls champion Alex Bilodeau were among the over 200 athletes and coaches who shook hands with and signed autographs for Calgarians en route to Olympic Plaza at noon.

"All Canadians have a little piece of our medals," Bilodeau said. "Definitely they've been cheering for us very hard since Vancouver and it's very important to share these moments, to be part of the community and to share that."

Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., and speedskating teammate Gilmore Junio of Calgary continue to have folk-hero status. Both were recently named honorary marshals for this year's Calgary Stampede parade.

After racing the 500 metres in Sochi, Junio stepped aside and let Morrison have his spot in the 1,000 metres. Morrison delivered a silver medal and followed up with a bronze in the 1,500.

"It's been hard to get into a routine and get back into skating, but we've got to live it up while we can and spread the message of teamwork and leadership that Gilmore showed with his gesture and do as much as we can while we can," Morrison said.

For the athletes, it felt like assembling for the opening ceremonies again, but without the pressure of competition.

"This is like a really fun, more informal opening ceremonies," Junio said. "It's great seeing all the support we get. This is our way of saying thank you to everyone else."

The Olympic Hall of Fame induction gala that followed the parade was also a fundraiser for the COC's foundation. The gala in Toronto raised more than $3 million, according to the COC.

Speedskater Cindy Klassen, gymnast Kyle Shewfelt, the 2008 men's eight rowing team, speedskating coach Marcel Lacroix, hockey coach Pat Quinn and the late, former Alberta premier Ralph Klein were the 2014 inductees.

Sports journalist Richard Garneau, who covered 23 Olympic Games, received the Canadian Olympic Order posthumously.

The COC paid out $1.8 million in bonus money to the athletes and coaches who won medals in Sochi. Gold, silver and bronze bonuses are $20,000, $15,000 and $10,000 respectively for the athletes. Coaches receive half of each amount.

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