Paralympics Welcome Home

(11.30am, Friday 9 November 2012, Sydney Opera House)

Thank you, Stephanie [Brantz - MC] and hello, everyone.

I'd like firstly to acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the traditional custodians of our land, and to pay my respects to their Elders. I also acknowledge the people of 200 nations who live in our city.

I also would like to acknowledge Premier Barry O'Farrell, Australian Paralympic Committee CEO, Jason Hellwig, and official guests.

To the members of the Australian Paralympic team - this extraordinary team! - I say, Welcome home!

Welcome home, and congratulations on your absolutely outstanding achievements.

This is the largest-ever team of Australians to feature in the Paralympics - 160 athletes competing in 13 sports.

And you come back with one of the greatest medal hauls ever: 32 gold, 23 silver and 30 bronze.

It's an incredible tally, and took Australia to fifth place in the overall medal tally - fifth out of the 165 countries competing.

Every one of you has been an inspiration. The keen interest in following your events, as well as the turn-out here today, are testimony to that.

But it's impossible not to single out competitors like:

  • Jacqueline Freney, who took eight gold medals in the pool, the most of any athlete at the Games, or
  • Matthew Cowdrey, whose five gold medals in the pool took his overall tally to 13 gold at three Games, Australia's greatest total ever, or
  • The four medals, including one gold, for the team's youngest member, Maddison Elliott, who's just 13
  • The two gold medals and world records in athletics for Evan O'Hanlon, and
  • Australia's first-ever Paralympic gold medals in wheelchair rugby and sailing

This Australian team broke no less than 16 world records, including six in the pool, five on the cycling track and four in athletics. And a total of 33 new Paralympic records were set by the team. That's a fantastic achievement.

As an official team sponsor, the City was cheering for you all - along with the rest of Australia!

And today, we welcome you back, and to congratulate each and every one of you.

As part of our sponsorship, we will continue to partner with the Australian Paralympic Committee to raise the profile of your achievements over the next 12 months.

You have shown us all what can be achieved with vision, courage and willpower. In recognition of that, I am delighted to present you as a team with the keys to this great city.

Thank you all for your inspiring performance.