Medal hopes and a warm welcome for paralympians

Civic reception for the Rwandan paralympic team at the Apex in Bury.

Civic reception for the Rwandan paralympic team at the Apex in Bury.

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RWANDAN paralympians have been out and about meeting local people and helping coach youngsters.

On Thursday, they were given a civic welcome at The Apex and presented with gifts.

Rwandan paralympians visit Southgate Community Centre

Rwandan paralympians visit Southgate Community Centre

The team of 14 paralympians will compete in the sitting volleyball, weight lifting and two track events.T

The country has only won one medal in the paralympics, in Athens in 2004, when Jean de Dieu Nkundrabera won bronze in the 800m.

But Rwandan representatives signalled they hoped they were about to add to that tally.

“We have some excellent players and the training is going well. Can we win a medal? Why not,” said Danny Hirwa, manager of the sitting volleyball team.

Linda Klimba, assistant high commissioner for Rwanda, also spoke of the country’s medal hopes. “To our paralympians, I say all our hopes are with you, you will have all the facilities that you require, you have all the friends that you need and you have all the support – so please bring us the medals.”

Mayor of St Edmundsbury Tim Marks said: “We wish you every success. Whether or not you achieve a medal in the games you should each be proud for your achievements in competing in the games.”

He presented the athletes with a bag of gifts including a Bury book and postcards.

The team had been given a tour of Bury including the Greene King brewery where they sampled the beer.

Cllr Jeremy Pembroke, chairman of Suffolk County Council, has tickets to the volleyball and is looking forward to seeing the Rwanda team in action.

He presented the Rwandan team with a specially made paralympics quilt and each member was given a commemorative ceramic plate made by a firm in Lowestoft.

The team and their coaches were also guests at a reception organised by Southgate Church where they enjoyed meeting locals and were given copies of the New Testament.

On Friday, the sitting volleyball team visited Thurston Community College where they met and coached college students and pupils from Riverwalk School.

On Saturday, they visited the celebratory Rwandan flower bed in the Abbey Gardens and mural created by Church Walks Charities and King Edward V1 School students and yesterday were due to enjoy a farewell tea party at the Theatre Royal.

 The Paralympic Flame will be at Needham Market tonight and travel to Bury Leisure Centre on Sunday.

On Monday, it is at Moyse’s Hall as part of the Suffolk Lap of Honour exhibition, where people can have their picture taken with it.