Belfast Telegraph

Our golden wonder Kelly stops off at No10 on her way home

By Rebecca Black

Paralympic heroine Kelly Gallagher is expected to return home in a blaze of glory on Friday.

The 28-year-old from Bangor won the UK's first gold medal at a winter Paralympic Games earlier this month.

Last night the planning committee of North Down Borough Council met to finalise plans for how they will welcome the golden girl home. The council has been talking to Kelly about how she would prefer to be celebrated upon her return. Yesterday Kelly and her guide Charlotte Evans met Prime Minister David Cameron at Downing Street.

She said the magnitude of her victory still hadn't sunk in.

"They (the medals) have been in a filing cabinet all this past week while I have been racing so we had them out on the airplane and were showing the stewardesses, then the captain came down. It was really cool," she said.

"It was amazing coming into Heathrow and showing my mum the medal and letting her hold it, and my nephews."

Kelly has a condition called oculocutaneous albinism which badly effects her eyesight.

She cannot see the ski slopes and relies heavily on instruction from her guide Charlotte.

"Charlotte and I will stand side by side at the start gate, Charlotte will say 'three, two, one, go' and I'm chasing her florescent orange bib down the mountain," Kelly said.

"She's really talented in that she is telling me what is going on under her feet so that I can experience that. She is looking ahead, slowing down, speeding up, all those together.

"I really can't tell the difference between whether the snow is steep or flat or if there are undulations in it, so she is communicating all of that to me – we are doing this at 120km per hour.

"But it is really enjoyable, the rush that you get when you get a good run and it's technically smooth. It's on the edge of control but it's perfect."

Kelly's achievement was tinged with sadness for her late father.

"I guess for my mum it is really difficult. It doesn't matter how many medals I won at Sochi, it wasn't how I had imagined it when I first started because he wasn't there," she said.

"But we went on without him and we did our best.

"I know he would have been annoying people with the texts, saying did you see how she did today. He was immensely proud.

"We had so many nice messages, cards from people wishing us luck.

"I am coming home on Friday, then two of my friends are getting married and I have bridesmaids duty so my life will change quite a bit. I have been quite a boring person for the last four years."

QUOTE

"I didn't even think of myself as an athlete, but I definitely was always encouraged to do whatever I wanted. I dreamt about winning gold but sometimes I felt it wasn't possible. I don't think of myself as a role model but I have been inspired by the people around me in my life to keep on chipping away at whatever you are trying to do."

Kelly Gallagher

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