But the 67 medals at this year's Games in Rio and 147 at the Paralympics meant that the GB medallists' reception at Buckingham Palace was a crowded and happy event.
Throughout the Commonwealth there were equally joyful celebrations. Grenada, the Bahamas, Jamaica and New Zealand won more medals per head of population than any other countries.
Many of this year's winners spoke of being inspired by athletes of previous generations.
Inspiration fed their aspiration; and having discovered abilities they scarcely knew they had, these athletes are now inspiring others.
A few months ago, I saw inspiration of a different kind when I opened the new Cambridge base of the East Anglian Air Ambulance, where Prince William works as a helicopter pilot.
It was not hard to be moved by the dedication of the highly skilled doctors, paramedics and crew, who are called out on average five times a day.
But to be inspirational you don't have to save lives or win medals.
I often draw strength from meeting ordinary people doing extraordinary things: volunteers, carers, community organisers and good neighbours; unsung heroes whose quiet dedication makes them special.
They are an inspiration to those who know them, and their lives frequently embody a truth expressed by Mother Teresa, from this year Saint Teresa of Calcutta.
She once said: 'Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love'.
This has been the experience of two remarkable organisations, The Duke of Edinburgh's Award and The Prince's Trust, which are 60 and 40 years old this year. These started as small initiatives but have grown beyond any expectations, and continue to transform young people's lives.
To mark my 90th birthday, volunteers and supporters of the six hundred charities of which I have been patron came to a lunch in The Mall.
Many of these organisations are modest in size but inspire me with the work they do.
From giving friendship and support to our veterans, the elderly or the bereaved; to championing music and dance; providing animal welfare; or protecting our fields and forests, their selfless devotion and generosity of spirit is an example to us all.
When people face a challenge they sometimes talk about taking a deep breath to find courage or strength. In fact, the word 'inspire' literally means 'to breathe in'.
But even with the inspiration of others, it's understandable that we sometimes think the world's problems are so big that we can do little to help.
On our own, we cannot end wars or wipe out injustice, but the cumulative impact of thousands of small acts of goodness can be bigger than we imagine.
At Christmas, our attention is drawn to the birth of a baby some two thousand years ago. It was the humblest of beginnings, and his parents, Joseph and Mary, did not think they were important.
Jesus Christ lived obscurely for most of his life, and never travelled far. He was maligned and rejected by many, though he had done no wrong.
And yet, billions of people now follow his teaching and find in him the guiding light for their lives.
I am one of them because Christ's example helps me see the value of doing small things with great love, whoever does them and whatever they themselves believe. The message of Christmas reminds us that inspiration is a gift to be given as well as received, and that love begins small but always grows.
I wish you all a very happy Christmas.
THE PRESIDENT: Merry Christmas everybody! One of the best parts of the holiday season is spending time with the special people in your life. And for me, that means getting some help from my best friend for our annual Christmas Weekly Address.
THE FIRST LADY: Given how our first Christmas Weekly Address went, I realized that Barack needed all the help he could get.
THE FIRST LADY: Celebrating the holidays in the White House over these past eight years has been a true privilege. We’ve been able to welcome over half a million guests… our outstanding pastry chefs have baked 200,000 holiday cookies… and Barack has treated the American people to countless dad jokes.
THE PRESIDENT: Although a few got a…Frosty reception.
THE FIRST LADY: This year’s White House holiday theme is “The Gift of the Holidays,” and our decorations reflect some of our greatest gifts as a nation: from our incredible military families, to the life-changing impact of a great education.
THE PRESIDENT: And the greatest gift that Michelle and I have received over the last eight years has been the honor of serving as your President and First Lady. Together, we fought our way back from the worst recession in 80 years, and got unemployment to a nine-year low. We secured health insurance for another twenty million Americans, and new protections for folks who already had insurance. We made America more respected around the world, took on the mantle of leadership in the fight to protect this planet for our kids, and much, much more.
By so many measures, our country is stronger and more prosperous than it was when we first got here. And I’m hopeful we’ll build on the progress we’ve made in the years to come.
Tomorrow, for the final time as the First Family, we will join our fellow Christians around the world to rejoice in the birth of our Savior. And as we retell His story from that Holy Night, we’ll also remember His eternal message, one of boundless love, compassion and hope.
THE FIRST LADY: The idea that we are our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper. That we should treat others as we would want to be treated. And that we care for the sick… feed the hungry… and welcome the stranger… no matter where they come from, or how they practice their faith.
THE PRESIDENT: Those are values that help guide not just my family’s Christian faith, but that of Jewish Americans, and Muslim Americans; nonbelievers and Americans of all backgrounds. And no one better embodies that spirit of service than the men and women who wear our country’s uniform and their families.
THE FIRST LADY: As always, many of our troops are far from home this time of year, and their families are serving and sacrificing right along with them. Their courage and dedication allow the rest of us to enjoy this season. That’s why we’ve tried to serve them as well as they’ve served this country. Go to JoiningForces.gov to see how you can honor and support the service members, veterans and military families in your community – not just during the holidays, but all year round.
THE PRESIDENT: So as we look forward to the New Year, let’s resolve to recommit ourselves to the values we share. And on behalf of the all the Obamas – Michelle, Malia, Sasha, Bo, and that troublemaker Sunny – Merry Christmas, everybody.
THE FIRST LADY: And we wish you and your family a happy and healthy 2017… thanks, and God bless.
Merry Christmas, Canada!
The holiday season is truly my favourite time of the year. As we come together with loved ones, let us reflect on how fortunate we are to call this beautiful country home.
Living in Canada comes with a responsibility to be there for each other – and not just during this time of year, but each and every day. After all, Canadians helping others – no matter the distance that separates them – is what this country is all about.
When tragedy struck Fort McMurray, and thousands of Canadians were forced to leave their homes, thousands more came together to make sure evacuated families had a place to stay, clothes to wear, and food to eat.
Today, as Canadians continue to welcome Syrian refugees, we open our hearts and homes to those most in need.
Together, we demonstrate that better is always possible and that, in difficult times, we are at our very best.
So, during this season of hope, let us reach out to those who are hurting most. Parents without jobs struggling to put presents under the Christmas tree. Or homeless young people without a place to go for the holidays. Let’s give back in whatever way we can, and make sure this holiday season is a happy time for everyone. There is no holiday tradition more timeless than that.
I also ask you take a moment to remember the brave women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces – and their families – who make incredible sacrifices far away to protect our country.
My friends, I am deeply grateful for the support you’ve shown my family and me, and I am honoured to have this opportunity to serve you.
Over the past year, we’ve made real progress in helping the middle class and those working hard to join it – from cutting taxes on middle-class Canadians, to introducing a new, more generous Canada Child Benefit.
We’ve accomplished a lot this year, but we’ve still got plenty of work to do.
As we look to the new year, and get ready to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, I know our best days are yet to come.