Ain’t no party like a Paralympic party!

Paralympic Champion, Ellen Buttrick takes us behind the scenes at the ParalympicsGB homecoming event

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After a couple of weeks back in the UK following the Paralympic Games in Tokyo, myself and the rest of the GB Para Rowing squad were reunited last weekend to celebrate the ParalympicsGB homecoming at Wembley Stadium generously hosted by The National Lottery. The show was later aired on Channel4 and is still available to watch on All4. After a couple of weeks apart it was really nice to be back with the squad who have acted as our support system over the last eighteen months leading into the Games. It was actually quite strange being away from them for two whole weeks!

The event kicked off with a drinks reception at the Hilton Wembley where we were congratulated on our effort by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and ParalympicsGB CEO, Mike Sharrock. Both shared some of their favourite moments from the Games and applauded the whole ParalympicsGB teams’ resilience and performances.

Tokyo has been a brilliant Games for ParalympicsGB with a total of 124 medals including 41 Golds, 38 Silvers and 45 Bronzes. The team managed to win even more medals than in London and came 2nd in the medal table with the greatest breadth of medals of any country. In the Rowing team we competed in 3 events and finished with two 1st places and a 5th.

Personally I really enjoyed having my mum and sister at the event as they hadn’t been able to be out there with me in Tokyo so it was really nice to get to celebrate with them. It was so surreal to finally stand beside our ParalympicsGB teammates from other sports without face masks on and with the chance to finally interact with one another due to the relaxed restrictions in the UK.

Following the drinks reception, we headed over to Wembley Stadium for the main event. At the beginning of the show we walked out onto the stage and down to our seats in front of a packed Wembley Stadium. Quite a contrast to what we’ve been used to over the past couple of years and especially whilst in Tokyo. The event was hosted by the presenters of The Last Leg Adam Hill and Josh Widdicombe with appearances from Rosie Jones and Clare Balding. We were treated to live music from Jamie Cullum, James Arthur, Birdy and Ella Henderson but my personal favourite act was the House Gospel Choir who I have managed to see live once before back home in Leeds (I also enjoy erging to their album). Throughout the evening a selection of ParalympicsGB athletes were interviewed including Dame Sarah Storey, Kadeena Cox and our very own PR2 mixed double, Lauren Rowles and Laurence Whitely.

The most memorable moment for me was a video montage of British Paralympians competing (not just winning) in Tokyo with Ellie Robinson’s brilliant monologue playing alongside it: “If I have to crawl to the block on my hands and knees, I’ll do it. Even though I didn’t win a medal, I went out on my terms. I went out the way I wanted to. I’m just so proud of myself for getting so far. This is a story of triumph, not a story of defeat. I am now ending on my own terms. Mentally I’m stronger than ever. What threatens to weaken you will not conquer you.”

I would highly recommend watching just that bit if you can because I think her words epitomise the Paralympic Games to me. The idea that we choose our own path resonates with me as the moment I was diagnosed with my sight impairment I chose to pursue a place in the ParalympicsGB team and it has been very surreal to have finally achieved that now.

Once the show had finished we all headed back to the Hilton where our families lined the streets cheering and then carried on the celebrations until late into the night with the rowers and cyclists taking over the majority of the dance floor!

I heard rumours of after-parties across the hotel however I took myself to bed at a reasonable hour as the next morning myself and Benjamin Pritchard (PR1M1x) were attending a reception for Channel 4 hosted at Westminster to celebrate the success of the Games coverage.

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