SEPANG, Sept 22 — Malaysia’s Paralympics athletes arrived today to a heroes’ welcome, with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak joining over 500 supporters to greet them on their return from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Family members, friends and supporters of the Malaysian contingent began gathering at Kompleks Bunga Raya here as early as 2pm, ahead of the flight’s scheduled arrival at 3.05pm.
The gathering was made festive as supporters donned attire in the yellow, black, and blue often worn by Malaysian athletes, with some T-shirts even printed with the faces of the para-athletes.
In his speech celebrating the return of the athletes, Najib said the Paralympians’ achievements that gave Malaysia its best showing at the international event, was an inspiration for all Malaysians.
“The story of our contingent’s to the Rio Paralympics 2016 is a story I want to make a stimulus for all Malaysians so we can stand even taller,” he said.
“It’s something for us to be proud about, and it will push us to work even harder.”
Others also present at the reception were Najib’s wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor; former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi; Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Karim; and Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.
Najib highlighted that Malaysia is among the few countries that reward and treat its Paralympians as equals to able-bodied athletes.
He reiterated that the gold medallists will receive RM1 million and a RM5,000 monthly pension each.
The PM added that T20 (learning disability) long jumper Siti Noor Radiah Ismail who won a bronze medal will receive an additional RM100,00 on top of the existing RM100,000 reward for bronze medals.
Khairy said in a press conference later that he will organise a tour of the Paralympians to schools around the country to inspire children, in collaboration with the Education Ministry.
“This is an inspirational tale for all Malaysians, not just for those with disabilities,” he said.
Malaysia’s first Paralympics gold medal since 1972 was won by Mohamad Ridzuan Mohamad Puzi, who made a historic feat in the men’s 100m T36 (cerebral palsy) event after clocking 12.07 seconds, breaking the previous record of 12.25s set by Roman Pavlyk of Ukraine in Beijing in 2008.
Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli, who won a bronze medal in the 2012 games in London, created a new world record in the men’s shot put F20 (intellectual disability) with a throw of 16.84m.
A third gold was won when Abdul Latif Romly broke the world record in the long jump T20 (intellectual disability) category with a 7.60m jump.
Malaysia ranked 36th place out of the 170 participating countries in the medal tally with its three golds and one bronze.