Northern Ireland

Irish Paralympians given heroes' welcome at Dublin airport

The Irish Paralympic team have been given a heroes' welcome at Dublin airport as they returned home from the 2012 Games in London.

They won 16 medals, half of which were gold, making them the most successful Irish Paralympic team in history.

Around 1,000 people gathered at the airport to greet the team, which included six competitors from Northern Ireland.

Double gold medallist Michael McKillop said it was "nice to get home".

"You've been away for a month, you've been training hard," he told the Irish state broadcaster, RTE.

"To be able to come home with two gold medals after representing my country and breaking my records and Paralympic records, and being honoured with a special award last night at the closing ceremony, it just means everything to me to come home", McKillop explained.

The 22-year-old runner, from Glengormley in County Antrim, won gold in the Men's T32 800m and the T37 1500m and is now the world's greatest Paralympic middle-distance runner.

Victory

On Sunday, he was presented with another medal after he was chosen as the male athlete who best exemplified the spirit of the Paralympic Games.

His good friend and room mate, Jason Smyth from Eglinton, confirmed his status as "the fastest Paralympian on earth", winning gold in the T13 100m and 200m finals.

Swimmer Bethany Firth, from Seaforde in County Down, claimed victory for Team Ireland in 100m backstroke.

The 16-year-old, who took up swimming just three years ago, won her first event despite struggling with a shoulder injury.

Portaferry cyclist, James Brown, took a bronze medal in the tandem road time trial in London.

The Irish Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, will host a reception for the Irish Paralympic team at Farmleigh House in Dublin on Friday.

They will also be honoured by the Irish President, Michael D Higgins, at an event to be held in the city next month.

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