Bethany Firth delighted by the welcome home from Rio
PARALYMPICS star Bethany Firth was delighted by the "overwhelming" welcome she received at Belfast City Airport on her return home from Rio.
The Seaforde swimmer made history in Rio, winning three gold and one silver medal, as well as setting two world and one Paralympic record. Firth was greeted by hundreds of people after she landed in Belfast from Rio, via Heathrow - and also by her beloved pet dog Russell.
The 20-year-old said she was overwhelmed by the homecoming - which included pupils from her old primary school, Longstone PS in Dundonald, members of Ards Swimming Club, where she is a member, other fans and an assortment of media. She thanked the public for their amazing support while she was at the games, saying: "I never thought I would get this response when I got home, it's overwhelming - and I'm really just so thankful for everyone's support.
"They really brought a little bit of Northern Ireland to Rio for me and that's exactly what I needed when I was over there. All my races went really well, better than planned and that made all the hard work and the early mornings worth it. I couldn't have done it without all the support, from my family and everyone else who was with me over the past few years. Their help got me where I am today. Now, it will be great to be able to spend some time with my family."
Firth was the star performer among a group of athletes who helped secure a record medal haul for local sportspeople at a Paralympic Games. Elaine Reid, performance sport manager for Disability Sport NI, said: "Disability Sport NI is delighted that everything has come together so well for Bethany.
"Her four years of hard work have really paid off - there have been huge sacrifices on her part in that time and it's great that she has the rewards to show for it. Bethany has also received support from friends and family, as well as a number of organisations - including Ards Swimming Club, Swim Ulster, the Sports Institute NI and Sport NI - and everyone is so pleased things have gone this well.
"She is only 20-years-old and she should really be coming into her prime as a swimmer over the next few years. With so much already achieved, it will be amazing to see how she does in Tokyo 2020."