Punchng– Nigeria’s Paralympians returned to the country from Rio, Brazil on Sunday. The first batch of the contingent made up mainly of the powerlifting athletes arrived to a quality reception at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja.
The final batch of table tennis players and those in athletics are billed to arrive in Abuja on Monday.
An official of the sports ministry still in Brazil who spoke with The PUNCH on Saturday confirmed the departure schedules.
She said, “The powerlifters will arrive in Abuja Sunday afternoon while those in table tennis and athletics are expected to be in Nigeria by Monday morning.”
Those who returned on Sunday were received by senior officials of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, members of the supporters club, friends and family members.
An aide of the sports minister said on Sunday that a brief reception was held at the airport in Abuja for them. The Acting Permanent Secretary and Director Enterprises Mr. Luka Mangset thanked the athletes for performance in Rio.
The official who spoke on behalf of the sports minister, Solomon Dalung, said a bigger reception would be held for the team when all other members of Team Nigeria to the Games return.
He said, “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 at 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.”
A member of Team Nigeria and silver medallist, Esther Onyema who responded on behalf of her colleagues thanked the sports ministry for organising the reception for the athletes.
She said, “We are all glad today and we thank God for today because since we’ve been travelling, this has never happened (big reception). We are glad and we thank you all for supporting us.
“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 one in Africa.”
Nigeria won 8 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze to place 17th in the final table.