The Queen has praised the performance of Britain’s Paralympics team at Rio 2016 as “magnificent” as the athletes returned to the UK on a special flight.
GB won 147 medals in total. 64 of them gold, at the Paralympics and 67 Olympic medals which included 27 Olympic gold medals. Both teams broke their medal tallies from London four years ago, hit their 2016 targets, and finished second in their medal tables.
As the Paralympics closed and athletes returned to their home countries, the Queen said: “I offer my warmest congratulations to the athletes of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and indeed to the athletes of all Commonwealth countries, for their many successes in Rio de Janeiro.
“I send my good wishes to all those who have contributed to the success of these memorable Games.”
A loud cheer rippled through the arrivals hall at Heathrow Terminal 5 – marking the moment that the all-conquering Paralympians came home.
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 come through the door was rower Rachel Morris.
She had a tear in her eye as she hugged and showed off her gold medal to dad Carey.
Sports minister Tracey Crouch said the competitors had been an inspiration to millions and confirmed there would be two celebratory parades.
“I know that Manchester – a city with a rich sporting history – and London – with its strong links with the Olympic and Paralympic Games – will host brilliant celebrations that will give the British public a chance to say thank you to our amazing athlete heroes,” she said.
On board the flight, GB Para canoeist Anne Dickins observed “the world is better with bunting”.
Her coach Phil Gunney was waiting for the gold medallist at the airport: “She’s worked really hard and had a lot of challenges to get there,” he said.
“We were confident she could make the podium. It was 0.2 of a second so I didn’t know whether she had won at first. My reaction was very loud. I’m a driving instructor and I was sat with a student shouting at the iPad!”
Celebrating her victory, Dame Sarah Storey, whose Paralympic career has seen her win multiple gold medals in swimming and cycling, said athletes boarded the plane early and in high spirits to “get into the champagne”.
Table tennis gold medallist Will Bailey said the team spirit was “absolutely electric” on the flight home.
He said: “You know although it’s an individual sport I very much feel part of Paralympics GB team and you know, we’re all buzzing and so happy. We’ve achieved so much out there in Rio.”
The UK government is working with the British Olympic Association, the British Paralympic Association and both cities to finalise the details of the parades.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted that he was delighted to confirm a “heroes’ return” for the country’s Olympians and Paralympians.
Among the British Olympic successes in Rio were track cyclists Jason Kenny and Laura Trott, who between them won five golds, taking the couple’s gold medal tally to 10.
Mo Farah repeated his London 2012 double, winning gold in the men’s 10,000m and 5,000m and swimmer Adam Peaty broke the world record as he won gold in the men’s 100m breaststroke. He was the first British man to win an Olympic swimming gold medal since Adrian Moorhouse in 1988.
However, details of the celebrations come as a further round of GB athletes, including Olympic champion Mo Farah, have had their medical files made public by internet hackers.