Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Kelly Gallagher has Sochi in her sights

Kelly Gallagher looks set to be picked for the Great Britiain team in Sochi

Kelly Gallagher is on top of the world, less than a month before she is expected to go for gold at the 2014 Winter Paralympics.

The County Down-born visually-impaired skier has given herself a major confidence boost ahead of the Games, in Sochi, Russia, by claiming her first World Cup victory of the season, at the IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup in Panorama, Canada.

And what makes her success all the more remarkable is that Kelly only returned to the slops last month after spending six months recovering from a hip operation.

Kelly, alongside her guide Charlotte Evans, competing in the visually impaired Super Combined at Panorama, recorded impressive times to take gold ahead of the Russian World Champion Alexandra Frantseva.

They were fastest in both the Downhill (1:23.74) and Slalom (43.61) to finish well ahead of Frantseva and guide Pavel Zabotin (2:13.68) in second.

Danelle Umstead and guide Robert Umstead of USA (2:26.11) completed the podium.

With typical modesty Kelly played down the significance of her achievement by saying: "Charlotte and I worked really well together today. We had a lot of fun and it's just training for the big event."

Now her goal is to go one better than she did at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, where as the first athlete from Northern Ireland to compete in the Winter Paralympics, she came fourth in the Giant Slalom, missing out on a medal by just 3.36 seconds.

She was also sixth in the Slalom event four years ago.

The final selections for the 2014 Great Britain team that will compete in Sochi will be confirmed at an event in Glasgow next week.

Kelly was already well in contention to be selected as she is considered to be GB's best hope of claiming a first ever Winter Paralympic gold.

After her success in Canada she is now almost certain to be selected for her second Paralympic Games.

Before that Kelly will hope to be in contention in the Super-G and the Giant Slamlon events at Panorama before heading to Copper Mountain, USA, for the fifth World Cup event of the season later in the week.

Around 70 skiers from 13 countries are competing in Panorama, one of the last major events ahead of the Sochi Games, which is a measure of how well Gallagher did to come out on top.

Her record of success in recent times is highly impressive.

Three years ago she became the first Briton to win a medal at the IPC World Championships when alongside Evans she took a silver and bronze in Sestriere in 2011. Amazingly that success came about just five weeks after they had began skiing together.

That was followed up with a Slalom gold medal at the 2011 Europa Cup Finals

Kelly's success story continued last year with four more medals in the World Championships in La Molina, Spain.

She won silver in the Super-G and Super-Combined disciplines and bronze in Downhill and Giant Slalom, but Paralympic gold is what she has dreamed off since falling just short of the medals in Vancouver.

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