Belfast Telegraph

Friday 28 November 2014

Kelly commits future to skiing after Sochi joy

Golden girls: Kelly Gallagher (right) and guide Charlotte Evans show off their Paralympic medals
Golden girls: Kelly Gallagher (right) and guide Charlotte Evans show off their Paralympic medals

Visually-impaired skier Kelly Gallagher remains totally committed to the sport after winning Great Britain's first ever Winter Paralympic gold medal in Sochi.

The 28-year-old made history by triumphing in the super-G with guide Charlotte Evans as Britain finished the Games with six medals.

Team-mate Jade Etherington, who claimed four of them with guide Caroline Powell, including three silvers and a bronze, has raised doubts over her future in the sport.

The 23-year-old said that, due to the sacrifices involved, she had to be convinced the required funding would be forthcoming and the programmes run by Disability Snowsport UK, the governing body in Britain, could meet her new ambitions.

But Gallagher's competitive drive burns as strongly as ever, even with four years now to go until the next Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Gallagher said: "I love skiing. You couldn't continue in this if you didn't have a love for it.

"We've been through so much. I've been through so much injury that my body is a wreck, Charlotte's deferred her university course.

"We are skint, we are less than skint, we have no money. We love this sport and I'm so glad that people are getting to see they can achieve whatever they want to achieve through throwing themselves at something."

The British team in Sochi featured three teenagers, excluding guides, with the youngest of those Millie Knight at just 15. She was due to return to school in Canterbury last Wednesday.

Gallagher said: "Hopefully we can help make it better for the younger girls coming in, so that Millie doesn't have to struggle as much as we have to."

Increased funding from UK Sport is set to follow the Sochi success, with the body's medal target of two comprehensively exceeded. The body's chief executive Liz Nicholl said Britain's alpine skiers should be "very optimistic" of increased financial backing.

"We've had to use resources really efficiently and if there are more resources hopefully they'll be used by athletes to make their performances world class," Gallagher added.

"You can't just be a recreational skier and come down the slope. It has to be really focused training, it has to be 100 per cent commitment.

"It's as much about the athletes themselves and how they can drive their own sport. We take responsibility for everything in our lives."

Despite their historic gold medal success, Gallagher and Evans left Russia with mixed emotions, having crashed out in three of their other races and finished last in the other.

The pair struggled to find too much consolation in their one golden moment.

Chef de mission Penny Briscoe said: "There have been disappointments for Kelly this week and, having won a gold on the third day, her hopes would have been high to have gone on and delivered more.

"That has not happened, but the bottom line is she is a gold medallist at a Paralympic Games and that is a pretty exclusive club."

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