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Paralympic skier challenges Cameron

A paralympic skier and former soldier challenged David Cameron about being denied compensation for his war injuries during a reception for the Sochi Games team.

Sit-skier Mick Brennan, 34, who was seriously wounded in a suicide bombing in Iraq in 2004, took the opportunity of meeting the Prime Minister at a reception in Downing Street to push for changes to the armed forces compensation scheme.

Brennan, who recorded two top-10 finishes in the Winter Paralympics, said despite the injuries he suffered and the lack of compensation, he felt like a "millionaire" because of his skiing success.

At the Downing Street reception to celebrate the success of the Sochi competitors, Mr Cameron told the former 30 Signal Regiment sergeant he would look into the issue.

Brennan said he had previously met Mr Cameron before the 2010 election, when he was leader of the opposition, and had asked him to look at the issue.

The Prime Minister told him he would look at the case, and Brennan said he had been told to contact Minister for the Disabled Mike Penning - a fellow former serviceman.

Brennan lost his legs and also suffered a serious brain injury in the bomb attack, which occurred when he was serving in Fallujah in November 2004.

The armed forces compensation scheme only came into effect the following year.

After the reception Brennan, 34, from Bircotes near Doncaster, said: " We got injured in November 2004. They brought the compensation in in April 2005. That was the line in the sand, anyone on the other side, unlucky."

Asked whether he expected raising the issue with Mr Cameron would result in changes, he said: " I'm not going to count on anything. I've had nothing now, I'm happy in life, I'm doing something that I want to be doing and I'm being fully supported by the Combined Services Disabled Ski Team and Disability Snowsport UK.

"I'm just focusing on my sporting career and if anything comes, it comes. It's £500,000, I've been 10 years without it now and I'm managing fine.

"It's money at the end of the day and I'm happy, I'm a millionaire because I'm doing something that I want to be doing and I've got no stress. The only stress I've got is what I put on myself when I'm training."

Brennan finished eighth in the super combined, 10th in the super-G and 14th in the giant slalom at Sochi, results he described as "phenomenal".

Visually-impaired skier Kelly Gallagher has said she has the potential for further success after winning Great Britain's first ever Winter Paralympic gold in Sochi.

The 28-year-old and her team mates were honoured with the Downing Street reception after finishing the Sochi games with a six medal haul.

Gallagher, from County Down, who won gold in the super-G with guide Charlotte Evans, said she would be back in training within weeks and the pair "have the potential to do so much more".

Mr Cameron told the athletes he had followed the games by watching the "wrap-up programmes in the evenings".

Alongside Gallagher and Evans, Jade Etherington and her guide Caroline Powell claimed three silvers and a bronze in skiing events.

Mr Cameron was fascinated by the bluetooth headsets the visually-impaired skiers used to communicate with their guides during the events.

He asked: "Is it like my bluetooth upstairs, where if it gets too far apart it stops working?"

Mr Cameron asked the female skiers about their plans for the future: "Are you all thinking now, next four years I'm going to do it all over again?"

Gallagher told him: "We were like 'let's go now', but then we have to train for four years."

The Prime Minister joked that the success in Sochi meant that the jobs of those involved in the team were safe.

"T his was our best haul since 1984, we hit our medal targets - well done, very good - you can keep your jobs, you're all right, you're safe."

Following the reception, Gallagher said: " We achieved one gold medal but we have the potential do so much more. There's World Championships coming up and the World Cup circuit, so there's still gold to chase after and we really have a passion for skiing."

She said she had not yet thought about what the impact of the gold on her life would be, adding: " We have been really focused on the five events we have been competing in and we had always wanted to achieve the gold, but it wasn't for any attention or fame, it was because we wanted to be the best skiers we could be.

"I'm really excited to hear that it means that people at home have been watching and maybe they can be inspired to get involved in a sport, whatever they want to do."

Gallagher said she was planning to have a "wee break" before returning to training.

"I'm going to have a wee break, we are going to try and see what we have to do with our careers outside sport and within sport, but we're still full-time athletes so we'll be training," she said.

"I'll be like a moth to a flame, I'll be back in the gym in a couple of weeks I imagine and we'll set ourselves up for the World Championships."

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