Belfast Telegraph

Kelly Gallagher's is focused on going for Winter Paralympics gold again

By Steven Beacom

Kelly Gallagher has outlined her desire and determination to compete at the 2018 Winter Paralympics and create even more history.

The visually impaired skier from Bangor became a household name last year when, along with her English guide Charlotte Evans, she became the first Team GB competitor to win a gold medal at the Games.

It was a massive achievement and a major moment in alpine sport for the United Kingdom.

Everyone from Prime Minister David Cameron to Victoria Beckham sent their congratulations to the dynamic duo whose heroics in Sochi made headline news all over the globe.

Numerous public appearances followed, as did a nomination on the short list for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, and Kelly claimed the Sports Person with a Disability prize at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards for the second year running.

Both Gallagher, who turned 30 on Monday, and her close friend Evans, from Kent, had hoped to build on their Winter Paralympics success at this year's World Championships, but as can happen in sport joy was quickly followed by pain.

In January, during training in Austria, Gallagher and Evans collided and the latter suffered concussion, keeping her out of action for months.

The Northern Ireland skier, who has oculocutaneous albinism, a condition which affects the pigment in her hair, skin and eyes, had the opportunity to compete at the World Championships, held in Canada in March, with another partner but decided she could not do it without her regular guide.

"It was a real sadness not to be able to compete at the World Championships, because I really wanted to become World champion and be out there competing, but without Charlotte I didn't think that was possible. We are a proper team and I couldn't do it without her," admitted Gallagher.

"I think we would have had a good chance at the World Championships. When we got back on the snow together after Sochi we were really excited to see that we had an even greater determination to succeed.

"With the World Championships as well there would not have been the same pressure as there had been in Sochi so it could have been really exciting. It just wasn't to be and there is no point crying about it now, though I'll admit this has been a really deflating season."

Asked about Charlotte's recovery, Kelly said: "She is recovering really well with her concussion. She is still struggling with concentration and things like that. Concussion is a really worrying injury and you have to be very careful with it, so we won't be rushing things.

"We won't be racing until around December so in the meantime it's about getting fit and strong and for me using the resources here at the Sport Institute to become a better athlete. That's what my focus is going to turn to now.

"In our sport, 2016 is a funny year because there are no World Championships or Games. What we have instead is the World Cup to go chasing for. It will be a year to cement foundations and target consistency in races."

And further down the slope her fans will be delighted to hear that Kelly is keen to race at the Winter Paralympics again.

When the 2018 Games in South Korea are brought up in our conversation, there is genuine excitement in Gallagher's voice at the thought of going for gold again.

"That is my goal, definitely, to go to 2018. The pinnacle of our sport is the Paralympic Games and everyone involved in it wants to be a Paralympic champion and I do believe I have another Games in me," she says.

"The next Games are in South Korea and it would be great to compete there and if we could win another gold that would be even better.

"We've created history once and we'd love to do it again."

In the meantime, Kelly will continue to do what she enjoys most on the back of her Sochi glory... encouraging youngsters to follow their dreams.

The County Down lady loves meeting children and telling them her story from first skiing on a family holiday as a teenager to becoming a gold medal winner.

"I really love going to primary schools and talking to children and telling them that anything is possible," she says.

Earlier this month, Kelly joined children from Springfield Primary School and young people from Forthspring Inter Community Group in Belfast, in a trip organised by the National Lottery. Forthspring Inter Community Group received £462,000 of National Lottery funding via the Big Lottery Fund for their Youth Matters project.

Gallagher, one of more than 1,300 elite athletes supported by the National Lottery through UK Sport, said: "It's fantastic to see a project like this doing so much good work in the local area. It is inspirational."

Much like Kelly herself.

Beacom's 15 to 1 questions

15. Is there one sporting moment you would like to experience all over again?

A Winning gold at the Winter Paralympics in Sochi. It was such a relief at the time and everything was a blur so I’d like to live that moment again.

14. Is there one moment in your career you would like to erase?

A I would erase bumping into my skiing partner Charlotte (Evans) earlier this year during training when she suffered concussion.

13. Which one sports star inspires you?

A I really think that athletes who have resilience and strive for success and medals over a long period of time are inspiring. I see sports stars like Paddy Barnes and Lisa Kearney in the gym working really hard day in day out. They are the type of people I truly admire.

12. What one sportsperson would you like to spend a day with?

A I would like to hang out with the top able bodied skier Lindsay Vonn for a day. It would be good to find out how she prepares for big events.

11. What one sports event would you like to see?

A I really liked watching the snooker World Championships recently. So one day I’d like to go to the Crucible to see that.

10. What’s your one favourite sporting moment, not involving yourself?

A It was in London 2012 when Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah won their gold medals at the Olympics. That meant a lot to me because they were under so much pressure to deliver. It was before I won my gold medal and I thought they coped with all the expectation so well.

9. If you could only follow one person on Twitter, who would it be?

A Paddy Barnes, because he’s good craic.

8. What’s the one piece of advice you would give to any young sports star?

A To balance your life. Sport is obviously hugely important but I feel you do need other interests around it, like family and friends. Having balance as a sportsperson is very important.

7. What’s the one thing you love about sport?

A That it’s a reflection of life. In life people want to be better and overcome challenges and sport is all about that.

6. What one rule would you change in sport?

A I would like to see Paralympic, Olympic and women’s sport get the same coverage as the likes of football, golf and rugby.

5. What one song do you like to listen to?

A I enjoy a range of music. I can go from rap music to a pop band like Five and enjoy both.

4. What is the one TV show you don’t like to miss?

A I’ve been watching House of Cards on Netflix. It’s good, so I’ll say that.

3. The one person you would like to play you in a movie?

A I don’t know... someone who is funny, but I don’t know who.

2. What one wish would you like to make true?

A Can I have two? Health and happiness.

1. What is the one thing that makes you happiest?

A When I’m around other people who are happy and content in their lives. Family is very important to me, so I like people close to me to be happy and healthy.


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