PARALYMPIC athlete Michael McKillop returned to a hero’s welcome this week after his golden triumph in London.
The 22-year-old Glengormley man won gold in the 800 and 1500 metres in the T37 class at the Paralympics.
And on top of those successes he was selected to receive the Whang YounDai Achievement Award by the International Paralympic Committee.
The award recognises the athletes who best exemplify the spirit of the Paralympic Games.
Michael was chosen as the male athlete along with Mary Nakhumicha Zakayo of Kenya who won the female award and both were presented with the medal ahead of the glittering closing ceremony on Sunday night.
Michael had been selected for the award because of his work with young children and able-bodied athletes.
The other contenders for the male award were South African star Oscar Pistorius and Egypt’s Sherif Othman.
The award will now see Michael take on an ambassadorial role for the Paralympic movement across the world.
Michael told the Times he was overwhelmed with the award.
“It’s amazing to even be mentioned alongside the likes of Oscar Pistorius is one thing, but to win the award is another. Some of those that were nominated had gone through some harrowing experiences to shine at the Paralympics and for me to be chosen was just humbling.
“These Paralympic Games have shown the world that it is not about disability, but ability and they have been inspiring to everyone.”
Michael has been hailed as one of the greatest Paralympians of all time and has received message of congratulations from across the world and from Olympic and Paralympic heroes such as Jonathan Edwards, Lord Sebastian Coe and Tanni Grey-Thompson.
The Glengormley man has hit the headlines across the world for his incredible feats in London.
And next week he will be given an open-top bus tour of the Newtownabbey which will visit St MacNissi’s, his former primary school.
“It’s incredible,” continued Michael, “It has not sunk in what all this means but everyone has been incredible.
“At the airport when we arrived back there were so many people wanting my picture I didn’t know what to be at.
“And people have been telling me there is children running around London saying ‘I’m Michael McKillop - you can’t catch me’
“That is something you only dream of and it will do really help the Paralympic cause right across the world.”
Michael suffers from cerebral palsy meaning the right side of his body is not as strong as his left. Simple things like stirring a cup of tea with his right hand can prove very difficult and the condition can cause tirdness. His cerebral palsy also causes epilepsy.
Michael added: “It’s the entirety of my right side so my lung is weaker on the right and I have to work harder in training for it. It’s the small things like buttons or keys which can cause difficulty.
“I take medication everyday and the epilepsy can put me out of training for a week, so I have been very fortunate for the run up to the Games and throughout them.”
Michael, who won gold in the last Paralympics in China, will now face a busy few weeks of special receptions organised to recognise all the athletes that took part in the games.
He added: “It’s been incredible an experience better than Beijing and I will never forget, but come October I’ll be back to running the roads around Glengormley.”