SEPANG: More than 1,000 fans gave a rousing welcome to Malaysia’s Rio Paralympians upon their arrival at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) today.
Huge smiles were etched on the faces of the para-athletes as they stepped into the airport’s Bunga Raya Complex, where the waiting fans had assembled.
The fans were also joined by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor.
Also on hand to welcome the heroes’ home were former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his wife Tun Jeanne Abdullah, who is the Malaysian Paralympic Council (MPM) patron, as well as Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.
Some of the fans had arrived three hours early to ensure that they had the best seats in the house to accord the athletes their welcome.
Led by chef de mission Dr Ang Kean Koo, the athletes were all smiles as fans waved the Jalur Gemilang, chanting ‘Malaysia Boleh’ to celebrate their return.
The athletes were presented with orchid garlands by Najib.
Khairy, meanwhile, also gave special mention to those behind the scenes - the coaches who had contributed to the outstanding results in Rio de Janeiro.
Earlier, the aircraft ferrying the Paralympic contingent had touched down at KLIA at 3.12pm and was accorded a water salute.
The Paralympians will board an open top bus to Kuala Lumpur, where they will stop at the entrance of the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas at KLCC and later, the Pavilion shopping mall fountain at Jalan Bukit Bintang.
The parade will continue at 7pm onwards at the Pusat Kecemerlangan Sukan Paralimpik in Kampung Pandan, where more supporters can meet and greet the Paralympians at the grand welcoming ceremony.
The recently-concluded Rio Paralympic Games was Malaysia’s most successful outing. History was created when three Malaysian para-athletes won gold medals.
Mohamad Ridzuan Mohamad Puzi won gold in the 100m T36 event, clocking 12.07 seconds; Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli in shot put F20, hurling 16.84m; and Abdul Latif Romly in the men’s long jump T20, jumping 7.6m.
Siti Noor Radiah Ismail meanwhile won a bronze medal in the long jump T20.
At the London Paralympic Games in 2012, archer Hasihin Sanawi won silver in the individual recurve for the W1 category while Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli bagged bronze in shot putt.