Northern Ireland athletes have continued to excel on the world stage at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, with nine athletes from the north securing six medalincluding five gold, making it the most successful Games to date.
The 15th Rio 2016 Paralympic Games was brought to a close at the Maracana Stadium on September 18.
Sir Philip Craven, president of the International Paralympic Committee, said the movement was “united in grief”.
Finishing second in the medal table behind China, they set 49 Paralympic and 27 world records.
The Great Britain unseated Russian Federation as it placed second with a total of 147 medals, 64 of which are gold, 39 are silver and 44 are bronze.
There was a sombre atmosphere in the air at the closing ceremony but also one of unity, with tributes to Iranian cyclist Bahman Golbarnezhad who died on Saturday, and a rendition of Bob Marley’s One Love.
Malaysia’s first gold medal in Rio via Mohamad Ridzuan Mohamad Puzi was the first since the 1972 Paralympics Games in Heidelberg, Germany.
But nobody could have imagined the success the 308-strong Chinese delegation would achieve in Rio as they became only the third country to win 100 gold medals in a single edition of the Paralympic Games.
It was more than simply the sheer volume of gold medals that surprised China’s rivals in Rio.
“Our target for these Games was eight medals and when we’d agreed that with government at the start of the year I was apprehensive and thought it might have been a bit of a stretch”, added the Paralympic Ireland chief executive.
Egypt’s medal-winning champions from the Rio de Janeiro Paralympics have chose to boycott the country’s satellite TV channels due to their failure to broadcast their competitions and a general lack of interest in their achievements.
Japan Paralympic Committee Chairman Mitsunori Torihara said specific measures need to be worked out toward 2020. Since 1988 this award is given at every Paralympic Games to one male and one female athlete who “best exemplify the spirit of the Games and inspire and excite the world”.
After the tragic death Saturday of Para cyclist Bahman Golbarnezhad, there was some solace for Iran as the men’s sitting volleyball team won an emotional gold medal against defending champions Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Mehrzadselakjani later said: “When we heard this news yesterday we were very shocked”.
Du Toit, who is known as “smiling lightning” due to his ever-present smile when he is on the track, and especially after storming to victory, was the standout star for the South African team.
“We are celebrating you now because you have done this country proud”.