Belarusian Paralympians landed in Minsk on Thursday, September 22. The team have won 8 gold and 2 bronze medals at 2016 Summer Paralympics in Brazil.
The welcome ceremony was no less modest than the honors that the Olympic team received a month ago, on their return from the Olympic Games in Rio.
Relatives, sports officials and the media gathered in the VIP lounge of Minsk airport to congratulate the athletes. A military band accompanied their entrance with music.
“Welcome home!”, the Minister of Sports Alexander Shamko was the first to speak.
“I sincerely congratulate you, and want to pay you sincere respect for the courage and will you demonstrated”, the official said as he handed over the welcome karavai to the athletes.
Ihar Boki, the triumphant winner of six golds in swimming, thanked his coaches.
“These victories became possible thanks to them and just little bit thanks to me”, 11-time Paralympic champion said modestly. “I am very glad that we managed to achieve the desired result.”
“Unlike in London, this time I felt more pressure because I was expected to win a lot of medals. Many people believed in me, and supported me. I did not want to fail.”
Ihar’s nearest plan is to go to his parents’ home to celebrate with family and friends.
The members of the Belarusian delegation admitted that it was difficult to compete after the incident with the Russian flag at the opening of the Paralympics.
“Foreign media were offering good money for an interview with our athletes”, the head of the Belarusian Paralympic Committee, Oleg Shepel, revealed. “But we decided not to meet any journalists until the end of the Paralympics in order not to be distracted from the competition.”
Belarusian paralympians left their autographs on that flag and plan to hand it over to the Russian team.
At 2016 Paralympics the Belarusian athletes have won ten medals – one award more than the Olympians. To one gold Opympic medal they have responded with eight Paralympic golds. In the overall medal standings, Belarus was 19th place at the Paralympics and 40th in the Olympics.
“19 out of 20 Belarusian Paralympians reached finals in their disciplines”, Oleg Shepel said.
That’s certainly worth respect!