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Russian premier Medvedev to reward Paralympic medal winners

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Russia's Paralympians will be welcomed home by President after topping medal table
  • Russia won 38 medals, 12 of them gold, at the Winter Paralympics in Vancouver
  • The nation's able-bodied athletes won just 15 medals in Canada last month, finishing 11th
  • Paralympian medal winners will be given cash prizes worth up to $135,000 for golds
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(CNN) -- Unlike their able-bodied counterparts, Russia's Paralympians can expect a warm welcome home from President Dmitry Medvedev following their triumphant showing at the Winter Games in Vancouver.

While criticism from Medvedev forced Russia's top Olympic official to quit after the country's worst performance in a Winter Olympics in nearly a hundred years, the premier will congratulate the Paralympians for topping the medal table in Canada.

The government will reward the medal-winning athletes with cash prizes worth up to $135,000 for golds at a ceremony in the Kremlin on March 30, the Moscow Times reported on Monday.

Russia's 32 entrants had won 38 medals, 12 of them gold, when the competition ended on Sunday, with Germany second on 24 -- a leading 13 of those being gold. The Russians topped their efforts from the 2006 Turin Games, where they also topped the medal table with 33 in total.

By contrast, Russia finished 11th at the able-bodied showpiece which concluded on March 1, winning just three golds among 15 medals. Its Olympic Committee head Leonid Tyagachev resigned following Medvedev's criticism.

The Paralympians' continued success was a boost for Russia, which will host the next Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014.

"This was a good performance despite the fact that we lost one gold medal to Germany," Alexander Porshnev, coach of triple medallist Maria Iovleva, told the Moscow Times.

The 20-year-old Iovleva, who is is deaf and paralyzed from the waist down, won gold in the women's cross-country skiing relay and gold and silver in sitting biathlon events.

She will use the money from the government to buy her own apartment, Porshnev told the Moscow Times, as she lives with 12 other disabled women in a special home.

Other standout Russian performers included the 26-year-old Irek Zaripov, who won four gold medals, triumphing in the men's biathlon 12.5 km sitting event, the 2.4 km pursuit and 15 km cross-country.

The Vancouver Games attracted more than 1,300 athletes from 33 countries, competing in five different sports.

Hosts Canada was third with 19 medals, 10 of them gold thanks to a treble of successes from Brian McKeever, while the former Soviet republic of Ukraine won five events in finishing on the same total.

The United States were next with 13 medals overall, including four golds.

Meanwhile, organizers of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London announced on Monday that there will 500,000 extra tickets available for Paralympic events when sales start next year.

The number of tickets available for the able-bodied competitions will also be raised by 300,000 to eight million in total.

Sports fans can register for pre-sale updates at the Web site www.tickets.london2012.com.