The first batch of athletes to the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio returned to the country yesterday. They were received by senior staff of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, members of the Supporters club, the sporting press, well wishers and family members.
At a brief reception held at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja, the Acting Permanent Secretary and Director Enterprises Mr. Luka Jonathan Mangset thanked the athletes for representing and making Nigeria proud at the Paralympics.
Speaking on behalf of the Minister, Barrister Solomon Dalung, the acting Permanent Secretary promised that a bigger reception will be held for the team when all other members of Team Nigeria to the games return.
“On behalf of Mr President, Vice President and the Honorable Minister of Youth and Sports, the Permanent Secretary and all good people of Nigeria, I welcome you back to Nigeria. We are celebrating you now because you have done this country proud. History was made with your glorious and victorious outing to the Rio 2016 Paralympics.
We appreciate your individual and collective efforts which placed Nigeria on a very prominent position on the medals table.
I am happy that Nigeria topped all the African nations in this outing.
I want to congratulate you and pray that when the others come, we will give you a more befitting welcome”.
Responding, a member of Team Nigeria and silver medalist, Esther Onyema thanked the Ministry of Youth and Sports for organizing a rousing welcome for the athletes.
In a short speech, she said the Paralympic athletes had never received such impressive reception in recent times.
“We are all glad today and we thank God for today because since we’ve been traveling, this has never happened. We are glad and we thank you all for supporting us.”
On the secret behind their record breaking feat, she traced it to the high level of patriotism and “never say die” spirit.
“Whatever we do as Special athletes, we always put in extra effort to succeed . We were determined. We did not do this for ourselves alone, but for the country because the national anthem says we should serve the country with all our strength . We did our best to make the country proud and right now we are number 1 in Africa” Onyema said.
The second batch of athletes will arrive in Abuja on Monday.
Team Nigeria to the 2016 Paralympic games won a total of 8 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze medals to place 17th.
NNEKA IKEM ANIBEZE