Hopes high for medals as ParalympicsGB finalises team for Sochi


newslatestThree disabled teenagers are among the seven skiers who will compete for Britain in the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, in March.

ParalympicsGB announced the names of the alpine ski-ing team – as well as three “competition partners” who will compete alongside visually-impaired skiers – on the first day of the official team launch in Glasgow.

UK Sport announced this week that the target for ParalympicsGB at the games, which begin on March 7, was to win at least two medals. Four years ago, Britain came home empty-handed from the Vancouver games.

One of the ski-ing team is Britain’s youngest ever winter Paralympian, Millie Knight, who is only just eligible to compete in Sochi, Russia, after turning 15 this month, and will be guided by Rachael Ferrier.

She said: “Having only joined the team in 2012, it’s been an amazing few years to get this far.

“Everyone in the team has been incredibly supportive and have helped me along the way, especially all my guides over the years.

“I’d like to particularly thank my mum, who was my first ever guide, because I wouldn’t have got to this point without her.”

Another teenager selected is 19-year-old sit-skier Ben Sneesby, who was first talent-spotted at the age of 13.

He is joined by 16-year-old James Whitley, who competes in the standing category, and  is currently ranked second in the world at under-18 level.

Whitley said: “I am extremely excited that I have been selected for the games. It’s what I have been working for all my life and I’m looking forward to seeing what Sochi will bring.”

One of the team’s top medal hopes is Northern Ireland’s Kelly Gallagher, who finished fourth in the giant slalom four years ago in Vancouver, the best finish for a British visually-impaired skier since 1994.

She and her guide Charlotte Evans won three golds and a silver at a world cup event in Panorama, Canada, earlier this month.

One of their closest competitors is likely to be Jade Etherington, guided by Caroline Powell, who won bronze at last year’s world championships in Spain in the Super-G event.

The sixth team member is sit-skier Anna Turney, who was a promising snowboarder before she broke her back while competing.

She said: “I’m really privileged to be part of ParalympicsGB and I’m looking forward to going out there and showing the world what we’re made of.

“I’ve put in a huge amount of hard work into my performance in the four years since Vancouver. I feel like a much stronger athlete now, I’m very focussed and I can’t wait to go out there and compete.”

The final member of the team is sit-skier Mick Brennan, a retired serviceman who was injured while serving in Iraq in 2004. He took up skiing through the charity Help For Heroes.

The skiers will be joined by the five-strong wheelchair curling team, which was finalised last month. All five curlers live and train in Scotland.

Two of the team, Gregor Ewan and Bob McPherson, will be making their Paralympic debuts in Sochi, while another two, Tom Killin and Angie Malone, are competing in their third winter games and were part of the team who won a silver medal in Turin in 2006. The final team-member, Aileen Neilson, will be competing in her second games.

Penny Briscoe, the ParalympicsGB chef de mission, said they were “investing more than we have ever done in supporting our winter ParalympicsGB team, both through support on the ground at games time but also through the preparation programmes we have run over the four years.

“This, combined with the increase in funding from UK Sport for the cycle, means that I’m confident that the athletes in our team will be better prepared than ever before.

“But there is no doubt that they will need to be, as the standards in Paralympic sport continue to rise and more nations invest heavily in their Paralympic athletes.”

23 January 2014