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Tuesday, 31 October, 2000, 17:11 GMT
Paralympian heroes welcomed home
Britain's paralympic team have returned triumphantly to the UK amidst scenes of jubilation.
The 214 athletes jetted into Heathrow Airport following the best ever showing by a Great Britain team at the 11-day event in Sydney.
Their extraordinary efforts achieved a phenomenal haul of 131 medals, which included 41 golds, with only the host nation Australia winning more, scooping 63 top spots on the podium.
Leading the way for the British was Birmingham wheelchair athlete Tanni Grey-Thompson, who won four gold medals in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m.
Grey-Thompson was delighted with her own achievements but was happy to be back in the UK.
"I went into Sydney thinking I could probably get two golds and two silvers," she said at the airport.
"But to come away having won all four races was very pleasing.
"It's just nice to be home and have a chance to spend a bit of time with my family."
Also returning to a hero's welcome were swimming medallists David Roberts and opening ceremony flag bearer Margaret McEleny, along with double sprint gold medallist Lloyd Upsdell.
"The time spent in the Olympic village was amazing. Everybody was rooting for each other," Upsdell the world record holder said.
Like the able-bodied Olympic Games that preceded it, the 11th Paralympiad has been praised as an unparalleled success.
A record 1.2 million tickets were sold in Sydney, more than double that of the previous Games in Atlanta, and athletes broke more than 400 world records.
US paralympic officials were so impressed with the success of the British that they requested a meeting with the chairman of the GB Paralympic Association, Dr Bob Price, in the hope he would share some of his secrets.
Dr Price said the paralympics had come of age in Sydney.
"The quality of the competition has blown away any remaining doubts that this is not elite sport but rehabilitation," he said.
Kate Hoey the sports minister was also at the airport to greet the Paralympians and was equally gushing of the British achievements and the event as a whole.
"What Australia did was really put the Paralympics on the map in terms of being the next biggest sporting event from the Olympics.
"The two together, with our success both at the Olympics and the Paralympics, has been a boost to sport generally."
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