Hilton Langenhoven and raymond Julius receives a from Fikile Mbalula, Minister of Sport and Recreation during the 2016 Rio Paralympics arrival at the O.R Tambo International Airport. Picture by: Samuel Shivambu

TEAM SA, who arrived back from the Rio Paralympics in Brazil this morning, were welcomed back to the country by lots of cheers of fans and prize money.

People came out in their numbers to congratulate the Paralympic team who landed at OR Tambo International Airport.

Together, they brought back a total of 17 medals from the games, including seven gold, six silver and four bronze.

Amongst them was Carl du Toit, 23, who won two gold medals in 400m and 100m and 14-year-old Ntando Mahlangu (corr) who won a silver medal.

As the pair and their fellow athletes walked through the international arrival terminals at the airport, hundreds of fans from all walks of life who were waiting there, cheered them on.

Together, the groups sang, danced, blew vuvuzelas and waved South African flags.

Amongst them were about 150 of Mahlangu's classmates from Laerskool Constantia Park in Pretoria.

"He is our hero, we look up to him," said one of the pupil Charlies van Rooyen.

These sentiments were echoed by sports and recreation minister Fikile Mbalula who told the gathering that the youngster and first-time medal winner, was a role model for the youth.

"His story can inspire all young people stay away from drugs and believe in your country," he said.

The minister also sang the praises of the rest of the Paralympic team, saying that they were "a bunch of winners”.

"The story of the paralympians is a great one, it is one of triumph of the human spirit."

Mbalula added that anyone with a disability should not disempowered as all humans are equal before God.

He then gave them special medals on behalf of the country, as well as prize money.

This included R400 000 for gold medalists and R100 000 for their coach, R200 000 for silver medalist R50 000 for the coach, as well as R80 000 for those who won a bronze medal and R20 000 for the coach.

"There's only one Father Christmas in sports and it's Fikile Mbalula and Gert Oosthuizen, the deputy sports minister," he quipped.

Mbalula also asked the private sector and the public to support the paralympians.

"We have given you heroes - support them and celebrate them," he said.

[email protected]

Independent Media