Belfast Telegraph

Paralympic champion Kelly Gallagher's golden welcome home

By Rebecca Black

Our very own golden girl who won Britain's first ever Winter Paralympic Gold medal has returned home to rapturous applause.

Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin, Olympic gold medallist Dame Mary Peters and shadow Secretary of State Ivan Lewis joined Kelly Gallagher's friends and family at Belfast City Airport last night to welcome her back.

The Bangor woman took gold earlier this month in Sochi along with her guide Charlotte Evans in the visually impaired Super-G.

As soon as Kelly walked out of the door at the airport wearing her gold medal there were cheers, flowers and balloons.

"It was so amazing, we definitely know how to throw a party here," she told the Belfast Telegraph.

"It's so good to be able to share what we have achieved.

"I wouldn't have been able to do this without the help of my family and friends who are all here and also Sport Northern Ireland.

"I am just so delighted that I get to bring a gold medal back to Northern Ireland to share with everyone."

Kelly said she had no idea that so many people would come out to welcome her home.

"I got an idea that there were people getting up early in the morning to watch our races and getting excited, but I did not think that I would see so many people," she said. "For them all to come to the airport to collect me is something else.

"I hope I don't get spoilt and expect this every time I land into Belfast."

The City Airport is a special place for Kelly as it was where her late father worked out of as a Flybe pilot. "It's a special place for me because it's where my daddy worked for so long," she said. "He was a pilot for Flybe.

"He passed away during my preparation for the Paralympics so Sochi could never have been what I wanted it to be, because I wanted him there as well as my mum.

"The west coast came to Belfast – my relatives from Donegal, Leitrim and Mayo all came up for this."

Dame Mary Peters said the excitement brought back happy memories from when she arrived home in 1972 with her gold medal.

She said she had advised Kelly to enjoy the moment.

"I have told her she has to party for the next 42 years to catch up with me," she said.

"It's wonderful to see, she's so excited and she'll inspire a new generation."

Meanwhile, Sports Minister Ms Ni Chuilin and Sports NI chief executive Antionette McKeown didn't rule out building a Kelly Gallagher snow slope at some point in the future.

"This is a brilliant day, Kelly is a lovely person, a really hard worker and she is an inspiration for women as well as people with disabilities in sport," Ms Ni Chuilin said. "We are busting to get her up to Stormont to say thank you."

In the shorter term, Kelly will be invited to a reception at Stormont, while North Down Borough Council is still finalising how it plans to celebrate her achievement.

Belfast Telegraph


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