Rio Olympics

Paralympian Bethany Firth back in Belfast after triple gold-winning success in Rio

Paralympic Champion Bethany Firth with her dog Russell as she returns home to Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell 
By David Young, Press Association

Paralympian Bethany Firth was leapt upon by her most enthusiastic fan as she made a triumphant return to Northern Ireland.

The swimmer's pet dog Russell sprinted across the arrivals hall at Belfast City Airport and into the arms of Team GB's most decorated medallist of the Rio games during an emotional homecoming.

Friends and supporters cheered as the 20-year-old from Co Down walked into arrivals with her three golds and one silver round her neck.

"I was so emotional coming through because I didn't expect this whatsoever, and I really am so thankful to everyone," she said.

Sex and the City's Kim Cattrall was on the same flight from London, but even the arrival of a Hollywood star failed to divert the attention of the cameras awaiting the return of Northern Ireland's golden girl.

The athlete from the village of Seaforde said she was now looking forward to spending some quality time with Yorkshire terrier Russell.

"I have been away from home for so long and training lots and lots and now I get time with him which is going to be so good," she said.

Pupils from her old school and friends from church were among those who packed the airport concourse to greet her.

Bethany said she was delighted to be seen as a role model for aspiring Paralympians.

"I really hope I am," she said.

"If someone hadn't started me at such a young age I wouldn't be here so I just hope I can inspire others.

"It's a great sport and it brings you so much joy and you get to meet so many people."

And as for the future, the swimmer will soon be back in the pool training for more glory.

"I never put a limit on what I can do, so I just can't wait to get going and see what happens," she said.

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