SEPANG: National athletes were given a boisterous welcome by a huge crowd cheering at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) upon their return from the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
The crowd of more than 1,000 was seen chanting “Malaysia Boleh” at the Bunga Raya Complex and were very supportive of the country’s achievements in the recently-concluded Olympics.
Supporters, who were there since 12.30pm, were also seen holding placards that said “Welcome home our heroes”, “Most beloved Malaysian heroes”, while singing to the tune of “Jalur Gemilang”, played by an acoustic band here.
Present were Prime Minister Najib Razak, his wife Rosmah Mansor, Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai, Ministers in the Prime Minister’s Department Wee Ka Siong and Shahidan Kassim and, Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.
James Tan, an 18-year-old student, told FMT he was thrilled to show his support because he regarded this as the best achievement of the nation in its history of participating in the Olympic Games.
“Our athletes have done a great job at the Olympics. This is perhaps the country’s best achievement yet.”
Another supporter, Mohd Yusof Rahman, 26, said he came all the way from Johor Bahru because he was a big fan of national shuttler Lee Chong Wei.
“I’m a big fan of Lee. It doesn’t matter if he lost the gold medal to Chen Long because it was a good fight between the duo.”
At 3pm, hordes of supporters were seen rushing to shake the hands of the athletes upon their delayed arrival, while some desperately tried to bag every single chance to snap a selfie with the national heroes.
Chants of “Lee Chong Wei” were heard throughout the hall and supporters were in a frenzy, trying to get as close as possible to athletes.
Meanwhile, national diver Pandelela Rinong was also touched by the warm homecoming at the airport, describing it as surreal to reporters during a press conference.
“It was unexpected and surreal. I’m really happy to get such a homecoming.”
Her partner in diving, Cheong Jun Hoong, also hoped that the nation’s achievements will inspire more youngsters to excel in sports.
“All of us hope that the young ones would be stronger than us so that maybe in the future, we can get better results.
“Hopefully, all of us can be role models for the next generation.”
The duo Pandelela and Jun Hoong created history when they won the silver medal in the women’s 10m platform synchronised event at the Olympics.