Belfast Telegraph

Heartache for Northern Ireland ski star Kelly Gallagher as bone-crunching fall forces her to pull out of world championships

By Cate McCurry

Northern Ireland's Paralympic gold medallist Kelly Gallagher has been forced to pull out of the World Championships after suffering a serious injury in a crash during training.

The visually-impaired skier suffered a dislocated elbow and three fractured ribs in the crash ahead of this week's World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Tarvisio in Italy.

The 31-year-old, who won super-G gold at Sochi 2014, landed from a jump on her feet but in an awkward position.

She was then thrown on to her back before sliding into netting.

The Bangor sportswoman suffered the injuries on Monday while training on the course with new guide, Gary Smith.

She received treatment on the mountain and was then airlifted to hospital, where she spent the night. She has now been released from hospital.

Gallagher, who suffers from a condition called oculocutaneous albinism which affects the pigment in her hair, skin and eyes, became a household name when she won Team GB's first ever gold medal at the Paralympic Winter Games.

Kelly's spectacular triumph captured the imagination of the public across the UK, as well as royalty, politicians and celebrities.

In a statement from British Parasnowsport, it said that the skier was "receiving the best possible medical attention and will return to the UK to begin rehabilitation shortly".

After concerns were raised about the jump section involved in Gallagher's crash - reports have suggested there was also an incident involving five-time Paralympic champion Henrieta Farkasova - organisers altered the course.

A statement from the International Paralympic Committee said: "World Para Alpine Skiing takes the safety of athletes very seriously. The coaches completed inspections of the course on Sunday and again on Monday morning before downhill training commenced to ensure they were satisfied.

"The athletes' inspection also took place on Monday morning with the same result. However, changes were made following the incidents after coaches raised concerns about the jump.

"Following the feedback, the jump was removed and another inspection by both the coaches and the athletes was carried out before training resumed.

"We wish Kelly a speedy recovery and hope she can return to competition very soon."

The World Championships start today, running through to next Tuesday. It is the most significant competition in the para alpine skiing calendar left in the run-up to the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

In a Belfast Telegraph interview last week, Kelly expressed some concern that she was feeling "low in confidence" and was "lacking a little bit".

"I would prefer to be more prepared. It would be better to be closer to the top girls and winning, but I'm just not there at the moment," she said.

She recently celebrated her engagement to boyfriend, Gerard Tohill.

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