Belfast Telegraph

Golden girl Kelly Gallagher gets her chance to sparkle at Winter Paralympics

By Adam McKendry

Bangor alpine skier Kelly Gallagher has been handed a late entry to the Winter Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang next month.

Gallagher - Britain's first ever gold medallist in the Winter Paralympics four years ago in Sochi - didn't receive one of Team GB's initial two spots, but has been given one of the spare places on the team for the Paralympics which begin on March 9.

The 32-year old, who is visually impaired due to a condition called oculocutaneous albinism, will compete with new guide Gary Smith, who is a 33-year-old communications technician in the Royal Air Force.

Gallagher suffered a severe setback in her preparations for the Winter Paralympics after she suffered a high-speed crash in January 2017 during training, missing the World Cup finals which were also held in Pyeongchang that March.

However, her recovery was quick and, although she missed out on the initial squad, being included at all will be a relief to the County Down athlete.

Gallagher and new partner Smith will compete in South Korea alongside Millie Knight and Menna Fitzpatrick, who are assisted by guides Brett Wild and Jennifer Kehoe.

"The journey to Pyeongchang has not been an easy one for me," Gallagher admitted after her inclusion in the squad.

"Gary and I will work really hard to ensure we are in the best place we can be for the Games and make sure every day counts before our first race."

This will be Gallagher's third Winter Paralympics after her debut at Vancouver in 2010 and her historic run at Sochi four years ago. Then partnered by Charlotte Evans, the pair became Britain's first ever gold medallists in the Winter Paralympics when they won the women's Super-G event in Russia.

Their success earned Gallagher an MBE that same year, and she was also given a Pery Medal by the Ski Club of Great Britain for her "outstanding contribution to British skiing".

Team GB's Chef de Mission Penny Briscoe OBE said: "I'd like to congratulate Kelly and Gary on their selection.

"We have such strength in depth in this event now and it's definitely one to watch at the Games. It's also great to see an athlete with Kelly's experience representing us in Pyeongchang.

"Today's announcement takes the number of athletes selected for Paralympics GB to 16 after athletes were selected in Para Alpine skiing, Para snowboard and wheelchair curling at the start of the year."

Meanwhile, snowboarder Katie Ormerod is out of the Winter Olympics after suffering a fractured heel in training yesterday.

The 20-year-old Brighouse rider sustained a fractured wrist on Wednesday's first day of slopestyle training, but returned yesterday, intent on competing on Sunday.

However, the British Olympic Association last night announced her Games were over before they had begun and she faces surgery this morning.

A statement from the BOA read: "Team GB snowboard athlete Katie Ormerod has been ruled out of the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games following a severe fracture to her right heel bone.

"The 20-year-old from Brighouse was due to compete in snowboard slopestyle and snowboard big air and will undergo emergency surgery in the morning."

Team GB Chef de Mission Mike Hay said: "We are deeply sorry for Katie and her fellow snowboarders who have lost a valued member of their close-knit team.

"She is a world-class competitor across both disciplines and we are desperately disappointed for her."

Aimee Fuller, from Holywood, Co Down, begins her snowboarding bid on Sunday.

Belfast Telegraph

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