Rio 2016: Cheers and tears welcome GB Paralympic heroes

Rachel Morris Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption In a 'very special moment', rower Rachel Morris showed her father her gold medal

A loud cheer rippled through the arrivals hall at Heathrow Terminal 5 - marking the moment that the all-conquering Paralympians came home.

It was a welcome richly deserved for a team that had weighed down the plane with more medals than any British contingent had amassed since 1988.

Many athletes immediately showed the speed that had earned them such rich rewards, rushing into the arms of their family and friends.

One of the first to arrive was rower Rachel Morris, from Surrey, who won gold in the single sculls just three years after taking up the sport.

Morris, who has complex regional pain syndrome, had previously won a gold medal in hand cycling in Beijing 2008, but changed discipline to set herself a new challenge.

'Absolutely incredible'

She was greeted by her father, Carey Morris, who arrived wearing a T-shirt with the words 'Row, Rachel, Row' on the front.

With a tear in her eye, Morris, 37, proudly showed her father her gold medal.

Speaking of the waiting crowd, she said: "People had said how much support we had and it's been incredible to see it.

"It's been absolutely incredible - the experience. The whole Games and the way it's been done, and being part of Paralympics GB and having our best result, that has been amazing."

Image caption 'She didn't say much at first but it was all in the eyes,' said Mr Morris

Mr Morris said his daughter would be looking forward to walking their dog Wispa, a chocolate Labrador, now she was back home.

He added: "She didn't say much at first but it was all in the eyes.

"We had a big hug and then I held the medal. It's a very special moment."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Equestrian rider and GB flagbearer Lee Pearson arriving at Heathrow

The athletes brought the party atmosphere of Rio back to the UK as they flew in on a British Airways flight which was decorated with a gold nose and carried the name "victoRIOus".

There were chants of "Team GB" as the athletes made their way past the crowd to meet their friends and family .

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Club thrower Abbie Hunnisett, 20, was shown a warm welcome home

One of the biggest cheers was when double gold medallist Kadeena Cox, 25, came through the door.

Her family had travelled to the airport to greet the world record breaker, who is the first Paralympian for 28 years to win medals in two sports at the same games.

'So overwhelmed'

Cox, from Leeds, said: "I was so overwhelmed. I was like: 'As if people are doing this for me.' It's crazy.

"I feel like I need some down time, a moment to myself, to realise what I've achieved out there.

"I just wanted to do something special and make other people realise that you can still do things after a diagnosis like mine and it's not a death sentence."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Cox's mother Jasmin Williams said she would 'feed her up a bit' to help her recover

Cox, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis two years ago, said her condition meant she was unable to say whether she planned to make it to the next Paralympics in Tokyo in 2020.

But she added: "Next year we have the athletics World Championships in London and I'm hoping to be there and do something special there."

Her mother Jasmin Williams said: "I'm very excited to have her back British side, to show her our appreciation and to get her to recover and to get to feed her up a bit. She's not had home cooking since she's been out there."

Image copyright PA
Image caption David Weir returned home to meet his new born son Lenny, whose birth he missed during the games

Many of the athletes appeared surprised at the turnout and the way they were repeatedly stopped by supporters eager to pass on their congratulations.

David Weir, who was devastated to miss his son's birth as well as missing out on track medals at the Games, was greeted by his four children at the airport - including newborn Lenny.

Wedding planning

After the whirlwind of Rio, many of the athletes had not given too much thought to Tokyo.

Instead they were focused on enjoying a well-deserved break with loved ones.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Anne Dickins is looking forward to planning her wedding

Anne Dickins, 49, who won gold in the para-canoeing, said: "In the short term I'm looking forward to planning my wedding as my other half proposed last year."

Dickins, a former endurance mountain biker, started canoeing in 2012 after a back injury left her with nerve damage in her legs.

Inspired to take up the sport after volunteering as a games maker at London 2012, she said: "We are also hoping to get a tandem so we can do some riding together. It's been pretty lonely being on your own in a boat so we are hoping to do that next year.

"But never say never for Tokyo."

Gold medallist Emma Wiggs, 36, from Derbyshire, is already thinking about getting back to training.

The five-time world champion won gold in the KL2 para-canoeing, four years after winning bronze in the sitting volleyball at London 2012.

She plans to celebrate her success with a belated honeymoon to California with wife Gemma after the couple delayed the trip for a year so Emma could focus on training.

Image caption Emma Wiggs was all smiles as she was greeted by her nephews Harry (far left) and Noah and niece Charlotte

Gemma said: "We see it as a massive honour to be a part of her journey. In 2010 she went to a British Paralympic Association talent ID day and her journey started there.

"It's not without its challenges. It's a rollercoaster ride supporting an athlete, but we've been luckily enough with the support we've got behind her and the talent that she has got that we are able to share in that success."

Wiggs, who lost the use of her legs due to a mystery virus, has not ruled out representing Great Britain at the next Paralympics.

"I want to make this boat go even faster so I'm going to hopefully have a lie in at some point, have a bit of time off and go on honeymoon, and then to be honest I can't wait to go back training," she said.

"Tokyo looks like they are going to put on a great show. I just want to keep doing what I'm doing for as long as I can, and as long as I can make the boat go faster and I'm part of a team that is truly world class I don't want to let that go."

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