Emma Reinke returns to warm welcome after Paralympic Games

Emma Reinke at her home in St. Thomas, Ont. on Monday Sept. 6, 2021. (Brent Lale / CTV London)

Feeling exhausted, Emma Reinke is back in St. Thomas, Ont. after a whirlwind month.

The Paralympic Goalball athlete says she's spent a lot of time in bed the past few days adjusting to the time change after returning from Tokyo, Japan.

"I just a lot to process," says Reinke. "I'm tired, mentally more so than physically".

Monday night, her family organized a get together for family, friends, supporters and neighbours to greet her.

She was smiling and appreciative but still disappointed that her team won just one of four matches in the tournament, and was eliminated early.

"It is disappointing and it takes a bit to get over it," says Reinke. "At the end of the day that was my first Paralympic Games. I was there, and I got my feet wet. It was incredible and emotional and every single emotion you could possibly feel every single day for an entire week is exhausting.”

The 23-year-old Paralympic rookie was one of the bright spots for Canada. She scored eight times in four games which was good for 8th in the tournament after the group stage.

"I did score some goals and that it feels really good. It's a euphoric feeling."

St. Thomas, Ont. backed Reinke ahead of the games, by putting a banner at the west end of the city showing its pride.

Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek was among those at the gathering and got his first chance to hold the ball used in the sport.

"This is really heavy and to see how hard they throw this ball, and to stop it, I’m in awe of the talent and the athleticism that they show," says Yurek. "Emma is a champion for sure. Making it to the Olympics, there's only a handful of people ever do that from Southwestern Ontario.”

Among those welcoming her home, was former Paralympians Megan Muscat, who was there to swap stories with Emma.

Reinke's parents also say they were so proud to see everyone backing their daughter.

"The community support has been fantastic," says Leigh Reinke, Emma's dad.

"I think just coming home with all the experience and what she got to see and do. Even with the restrictions, and COVID it was still a wonderful experience. She's tired for but she's home now."

Her stay at home won't last long. She's headed back to Ottawa where she'll begin training for an upcoming world qualifying tournament.

"I'll work for about a week and then next week, it's back to the gym," says Emma.

"We'll get back to practice, and in five weeks we're going to Brazil to qualify for worlds. So not a lot of turnaround time."

She's expected to be a fixture on this national team for a while, so there will likely be more Olympic games to come. For now she considers this an experience of a lifetime.

"It's probably changed me as a person, I'm just not sure how yet," says Emma.