The first day of competition at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games got off to a fantastic start for ParalympicsGB as Jade Etherington and her guide Caroline Powell claimed silver in the women’s Downhill, GB’s first medal in Alpine Skiing since the 1994 Games in Lillehammer and the first ever GB female Alpine Skiing medal.
As competition began at the Rosa Kuhtor Alpine Centre, Slovakian athlete Henrieta Farkasova was first out of the gates and laid down the gauntlet with an impressive time of 1:31.55. Etherington and Powell were fourth on the start list and secured a time of 1:34.28, ahead of the Russian athlete Aleksandra Frantceva who eventually took bronze with a time of 1:35.78.
After the race, Etherington said: “I can’t believe what’s just happened, we knew it was it was a solid run because we were shouting go, go, go and we had good, solid communication. I’m so proud and excited and I can’t wait to get that medal in my hands.
Powell added: “We’re happy we stuck to our plan today. We were really excited today so we knew that being excited rather than nervous usually means we will have a good run. I’m so proud of Jade and what she’s done.
“At the top of the hill we went away from the rest of the group and had a chat, and we said to each other ‘we can do this’. And we’ve done it!”
Fellow ParalympicsGB athletes Kelly Gallagher and guide Charlotte Evans finished in a time of 1:37.36, placing them in 6th.
Gallagher congratulated Jade, saying: “We’re so delighted our team-mate, Jade. It’s so exciting that we are getting to showcase our sport in front of so many people and hopefully it will get more people interested in adaptive skiing.”
In the women’s Sitting competition, Anna Turney was the 5th athlete on the starting list and had a fast run before crashing out of the challenging course.
In a busy first morning for ParalympicsGB, the Ice Cube Curling Centre in the Coastal Cluster saw the first sporting action of the day as the GB team took on reigning World Champions Canada.
Making her second Games’ appearance and as the only female skip in competition, Aileen Neilson led her team of Gregor Ewan, Bob Mc Pherson, Jim Gault and Angie Malone out onto the ice against Canada. The Canadian team have proved dominant in the sport, claiming every gold medal since Wheelchair Curling was introduced to the Paralympic programme in 2006.
It was a highly tactical and closely fought match, with GB taking points in the first two ends before Canada levelled the Game in the third. GB took another point in the fourth, but Canada called on all their experience to pull away, taking points in each of the last four ends to win the match 6-3.
Neilson said: “We were really confident going into the game and really pleased with how the game started. We had a few opportunities, some of which we managed to take. Unfortunately, the one that we had in the sixth was the one we had to take but that we didn’t, so we have to make sure that in our next game these are the opportunities we take.
“Canada had the opportunities and some they took and some they didn’t either, but we just have to focus on ourselves and not worry about the opposition. We’re feeling confident about the games tomorrow, we’ve played Sweden a lot and if we can come out the way we did this morning, very focussed, very confident, then I’m sure we can have the same good start.
“The atmosphere was electric, the crowd were fantastic and we used that to our advantage. We worked really well on the ice. For a few of the guys, it’s their first games at a Paralympics and I think that they put in an awesome display out there, very supportive of me and great team dynamics.”
McPherson said of his Paralympic debut: “It was a whirlwind, I really enjoyed it. I’m keen to get back out on the ice now. That was always going to be a hard game and we’ll see how we can go from here.”
Tomorrow Mick Brennan is set to make his Paralympic debut in the men’s Super-G while in the Wheelchair Curling ParalympicsGB take on double Paralympic bronze medallists Sweden in the morning and facing South Korea in the afternoon session.
Keep up to date with ParalympicsGB at Sochi 2014 at sochi.paralympics.org.uk