A Bangor girl has become the first ever athlete from Northern Ireland to be selected to compete in the Winter Paralympics.
Kelly Gallagher, a partially-sighted athlete, is in Vancouver, Canada, this month to begin preparations for the Alpine skiing events — with her guide Claire Robb — at the Paralympic Winter Games.
Kelly, who has just returned from competition in Spain, is one of seven athletes selected to represent Paralympics GB at the Winter Games which will run from March 12 to March 21.
The 24-year-old, a relative newcomer to the GB setup, is certain to be a huge asset to the team.
Kelly said: “It’s a dream come true to be representing Paralympics GB in Vancouver.
“The last few months have been very intense and I put everything I had into my training so I’m really pleased that all the hard work has paid off.”
Kelly is currently funded under the Sport Northern Ireland Athlete Support Programme and supported by the Sports Institute for Northern Ireland (SINI). She is also backed by Disability Sports NI (DSNI). Elaine Reid, from DSNI, and also Kelly’s performance manager, said: “Everyone from DSNI is delighted that an athlete from Northern Ireland has been selected to compete in Vancouver — this will be the first time anyone local has made it onto the Winter Paralympic stage and we’re very excited to see Kelly perform.
“Paralympics GB is always a very competitive squad so for such a new athlete to break onto the team is already a great achievement.”
Kelly added: “I’ve been training full-time in preparation for the Winter Paralympics and I just couldn’t have done this without the financial backing of Sport NI, who have been with me every step of the way, and the support of SINI who have helped keep me fit and injury free.
“It’s been a real team effort and I hope I can do them all proud in March.”
Disability Sports NI is a Northern Ireland disability sports organisation representing disability sports groups and clubs.
The organisation works to provide people with disabilities in Northern Ireland the same opportunities as non-disabled people to participate fully in sport and physical activity.
It annually runs programmes and events which benefit disabled adults and children with physical, sensory and learning disabilities.