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29 Sep 2004

Dame Tanni Grey Thompson

Wales’ Paralympic heroes today received a rapturous homecoming at the Welsh Institute of Sport, Cardiff.

And First Minister Rhodri Morgan was on hand to salute the 24 competitors who elevated Wales to the prestigious position of the most successful nation of the 2004 Games.

Returning with 12 golds, six silvers and nine bronze, Wales won more medals per head of population than any other country in the world. The First Minister said:

The First Minister said: "All of the athletes who competed for Team GB should be congratulated for their outstanding performances in this year's Paralympics. I am especially proud of our Welsh competitors who have achieved so much, putting Wales firmly on the map when it comes to disability sports.

"With a population of three million people it is an outstanding achievement that Wales is winning more medals per head than any other country. Wales' Paralympians and coaches are a credit to the nation."

Contributing massively to Team GB’s haul of 94 medals, Wales achieved it's best-ever Paralympic performance, surpassing even the 26 medals won in Sydney.

It was the first time that the Welsh contingent had assembled since their return to Gatwick last week and they were quick to celebrate their success.

Tanni Grey Thompson - who won an unprecedented 11th gold medal at the Athens Games - firmly believes that if she was not Welsh, she would not have been as successful and paid tribute to the support she has received:

"Wales is leading the way in disability sport. This can be seen by the number of youngsters coming out of Wales and excelling on the world stage."

"The Sports Council for Wales has always done so much to support disabled athletes and there is a really strong structure in Wales. There is something very different about being Welsh, if you spoke to any of our athletes out in Athens they will tell you that there is a huge amount of pride about being Welsh."

Swimmer David Roberts – Pontypridd’s quadruple gold medallist - David Roberts said of the Welsh performances:

"Phenomenol is the only word I can use. We’ve got the coaching expertise here in Wales to get us to the top. We’ve also got superb facilities. The National Pool was a very wise investment. If you invest in success, you get success. Wales’ medal tally demonstrates its readiness and commitment to nurture talent."

Fellow gold medallists Nicola Tustain, Emma Brown, Gareth Duke and Ellen Hunter were also at today’s reception.

Joining the First Minister in congratulating the Paralympians was Phil Lane – Chief Executive of the British Paralympic Association and GB Chef de Mission in Athens:

"For ParalympicsGB, the Athens challenge was always huge, the weight of expectation was massive. Despite all our preparation, it was clear - as record after record fell - that other countries had emulated our efforts.

"However, for all these challenges, and the massive impact of the Chinese team, there remained the talent and determination of the British athletes as they rose to the occasion. Winning 35 golds - and 94 medals in total - to finish second in the table to China, representing an outstanding achievement.

"The massive contribution of Welsh athletes to this total was magnificent and demonstrated the value of the programmes being developed in Wales as well as the talent of so many current and emerging athletes in the country."

Philip Carling – Chair of the Sports Council for Wales - said:

"It was a real privilege to be at the first three days of the Paralympic Games and to be able to appreciate properly the huge scale of the event. Welsh athletes have certainly done us proud. The Federation of Disability Sport Wales must be congratulated on their programmes which have contributed so much to the success of the GB Team and which are much admired by the other home countries.

"We have also seen participation in disability sport grow to new levels in Wales with more than 10.000 competitors taking part last year. I’m delighted that the Sports Council, with the full support of the Welsh Assembly Government, has been able to play a part in this".

Chairman of Federation of Disability Sport Wales Gareth John said:

"There was enormous expectation going into the Games, based on the achievements in Sydney. It is an incredible achievement to have exceeded the Sydney medal haul - at a time when world standards in Paralympic sport are so tough.

"While this is an exceptional showcase of Welsh Paralympic sport, we now need to start work on building towards Beijing 2008. We cannot rest on our laurels – we must ensure we can maintain our position at the forefront of disability sport."