It was a historic day for ParalympicsGB as Kelly Gallagher and guide Charlotte Evans put in a superb performance to win Great Britain’s first ever gold medal at the Winter Paralympics, while team-mates Jade Etherington and Caroline Powell also beat the defending Paralympic champion to take bronze in the women’s Super-G.
Their success means that ParalympicsGB have met UK Sport’s target of winning ‘at least two’ medals on day three of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games and secured GB’s first gold medal on snow in either the Olympic or Paralympic Winter Games.
Gallagher and Evans were first out of the gate and completed an impressive run, clocking a time of 1:28.72. They were followed by Downhill silver medallists and team-mates Etherington and Powell, who recovered from hitting one of the gates to tackle the challenging slopes of Rosa Khutor with great technical skill, finishing in a time of 1:29.76.
Gallagher said: “I’m delighted, it is so good to have such a great reward for all my and Charlotte’s hard work. I couldn’t have done it without Charlotte’s constant determination and talent. She’s a star!
“It’s been a difficult journey here and we are so happy to have had so much support from the very start. Today has proven to me that hard work and self-belief really does pay-off.
“I’m so delighted to be part of such a unique and historical moment for British Paralympic sport and I can’t wait to more disabled skiers out on the mountain now.”
Evans said: “It hasn’t sunk in yet, and I think it’s going to take a while to! All I know is it feels great and I couldn’t ask for more. I’m proud be representing my country and I’m so proud to be Kelly’s guide.
“It wasn’t great skiing today but Kelly did her best and luckily for us that was good enough.
“I hope we changed people’s perspective of disability skiing and it feels do good to know that there might be people watching who will consider taking up disability skiing as a result.”
Etherington said: “After the run that we had I’m really happy. I had a little wobble off the lake jump and hit a gate, so I’m happy to have a medal after that mistake.”
Powell added: “When you’re going fast it never feels great, so it’s hard to gauge where we were. We’re going to take everything we’ve learned and put it into our Super Combi.
“We’re very proud of Kelly and Charlotte for their gold, they were awesome.”
There was a tense wait while the girls waited to see what their opponents could produce in response. Home favourite, Russian skier Aleksandra Frantceva, was the third athlete to tackle the slopes. She completed her run in a time of 1:28.94, enough to overtake Etherington and secure the silver medal but leaving Gallagher in the lead as she waited with Evans at the end of the course.
Of the day’s achievements, Chef de Mission Penny Briscoe said: “This is an historic day – not just ParalympicsGB’s first gold in the Winter Games but our first gold on snow in either the Olympic or Paralympic Games. Kelly and Charlotte proved what world class athletes they are to come back after the disappointment of the Downhill and are absolutely buzzing now. I’m sure the people in her home town of Bangor in Northern Ireland will be going crazy. For Jade and Caroline to get their second medal in their second event is an amazing achievement too. I could not be prouder of the team.”
American Danelle Umstead finished in a time of 1:32.04, leaving her out of medal contention. The defending Paralympic Champion in the Super-G, Slovakian Henrieta Farkasova, who won gold in the opening event of the competition on Saturday, then failed to better Gallagher and Evan’s time and was eventually disqualified. When Australian Melissa Perrine failed to finish the course, the medals were secured for ParalympicsGB and the celebrations began.
Next up to compete in the Super-G was Anna Turney, racing in the Sitting category. Competition was delayed several times as athletes crashed in difficult conditions. Downhill Champion Anna Schaffelhuber completed her run in a time of 1:29.11, confidently assuming 1st place. Turney was the third woman to race and successfully finished her run in a time of 1:35.27, a fantastic performance following her crash in the Downhill on Saturday.
Austrian Claudia Loesch and American Laurie Stephens finished their runs with times of 1:31.20 and 1:32.09 respectively, forcing Turney into a respectable 4th place finish but just out of the medals.
Turney said: “I was disappointed that I didn’t ski faster and couldn’t win a medal. I watched Mick yesterday and he did really well and I hear the girls did well, so well done.”
Tomorrow morning in Alpine Skiing Kelly Gallagher and guide Charlotte Evans, Jade Etherington and guide Caroline Powell and Anna Turney will be back to compete in the women’s Super Combined, while Mick Brennan will be representing ParalympicsGB in the men’s competition. Competition starts at 09:30 local time.
The ParalympicsGB Wheelchair Curling team is back in action this afternoon against Slovakia at 15:30 local time.
Keep up to date with ParalympicsGB at the Paralympic Winter Games at sochi.paralympics.org.uk