Paralympians return home | photos, video

PORT Macquarie’s bleary-eyed trio of Paralympians returned home to a heroes welcome on Thursday afternoon.

Recently turned 16-year-old Paige Leonhardt embraced mum Tanya moments after getting through the arrivals gate.

The teenager normally enjoys 12 hours worth of sleep a night.

She was woken up three times on the way home to celebrate her birthday across different timezones.

“We stopped in Santiago and it was midnight and when we got back on the plane everyone wished me happy birthday and I was like I love you all but I need to go to sleep now,” she said.

Leonhardt enjoyed her first Olympic Games experience and can’t wait to start training for Tokyo.

“It was awesome, going over there I didn’t expect to go as good as I did,” she said.

It was the teenager’s first overseas experience and she said there were a lot of differences to living at home.

“There’s so many things that were difficult,” she said.

“Like not being told what to do and having to make your own choices for once.”

She has set the bar high for success at Tokyo in 2020.

“When Tokyo comes I’ll have a lot more experience and be older and I want to get on the podium,” she said.

“I don’t care what colour it is I just want to work towards that.”

Our very own Ryley Batt said he was looking forward to catching up with family and friends and not have to worry about wheelchair rugby for a couple of months.

“We’re having a family party and catching up with my friends that I’ve neglected over the last few months/years so it’s going to be really good,” he said.

“We celebrated for a few days and really enjoyed the moment but to come back home to Port Macquarie means the most to me.”

Despite being labelled as the best wheelchair rugby player in the world, Batt was looking to avoid the limelight.

“I get nervous in front of crowds because I don’t like to be the centre of attention at all so I’m glad there’s another couple of paralympians here,” he said.

Batt again thanked the Port Macquarie community for their support.

“To win the second medal for Port Macquarie in two Paralympics is something I’m proud of and Port Macquarie should be too,” he said.

“You guys deserve this because you’ve helped me out so much and let me in with open arms and I’ve just enjoyed everyone being on the ride with me so thank you very much.

“All the hard work paid off and we’re very excited about this. Now’s the time to start celebrating for the next couple of months and not think about training.”

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