Ski duo celebrate Sochi gold
Published 10/03/2014 | 07:22
Golden girls Kelly Gallagher and Charlotte Evans were on top of the world on Monday after making Winter Paralympic history for Great Britain.
Visually-impaired skier Gallagher and guide Evans rebuilt their shattered confidence following Saturday's downhill disappointment to win Britain's first ever Winter Paralympic title with victory in the Super-G in Sochi.
It sealed a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for the pair, who two days earlier had come home dead last, a result which Gallagher admitted had destroyed her faith in their ability.
And there was more to celebrate as Jade Etherington and Caroline Powell won bronze, their second medal of the Games.
Gallagher and Evans were the first of the six pairs down and had an anxious wait to see if their time would be good enough. Slovakia's Henrieta Farkasova, the downhill gold medallist, was expected to go quicker, but crashed, and when Australian Melissa Perrine also failed to finish, British gold was secure.
"It was really hard work coming from downhill into Super-G because they are similar speed events," Gallagher, the 28-year-old from Northern Ireland, said.
"I lost all of my faith in myself, in Charlotte, in our processes, in what we were doing and I was like, 'I only have a couple of hours to put this together, because we're going to be back on snow and we've got to race'.
"Charlotte said to me, 'You've got to make a decision to turn it around and forget about all the pressure that's on us' and it has worked out.
"We've had to do that so many times along the road when we have been training, whether I have been scared of something or I have been injured and physically hurt and mentally hurt.
"I can't stress how hard we've worked. It has been horrible and there have been days where I have said, 'What am I doing to myself? I'm not even enjoying my life,' but we have kept on going.
"We've had to pull ourselves together so many times that I guess all that was training for what happened from our downhill to the Super-G.
"We wouldn't have got here if it wasn't for Charlotte. When I haven't believed in myself, she has believed in us and believed in herself."
Evans, 22, was in tears after Saturday's disappointment and said: "It takes a lot to make me cry, even the coach didn't really know what to do with me.
"We did our best in the downhill and it didn't work, I can't tell you why. But I know that today worked."
Such was the duo's determination to make amends for Saturday's run that Evans was furious with Gallagher as they crossed the line, feeling she had not followed her directions.
"I was yelling at her the whole way down," Evans said.
"I know how we can gain speed and there were parts that Kelly didn't listen to a word that I said."
It was joy unconfined, though, as the results came in and confirmed the pair's time of one minute 28.72 seconds would edge out Russia's Aleksandra Frantceva by 0.22secs.
Etherington and Powell came home 1.04secs off the pace.
The success at a packed, and noisy, Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre put Britain, for the time being at least, ahead of the United States and Canada in the medal table.
The gold was also Britain's first on snow at either the Olympics or Paralympics, while t he bronze for Etherington and Powell followed their silver on day one and means Britain, with three medals, have already exceeded their UK Sport target.
And there are plenty of chances for more, with both pairs in super-combined action on Tuesday and slalom and giant slalom to come later in the week.
Etherington's and Powell's run was the first time they had finished a Super-G race together, but they were critical of the performance, with Etherington hitting a gate on the way down.
"I think after all the mistakes that I made we're really happy to finish and get that bronze position," said Etherington, who punched the air as she crossed the line.
"Hitting the gate was a massive mistake. I don't even know what happened, I maybe lost concentration and went into the gate.
"I thought I was going to crash. Caroline was telling me to be strong and we finished.
"I was just so happy I saved that mistake."
Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted his congratulations to both pairs.
Sit-skier Anna Turney, who crashed out in the downhill, finished fourth in her Super-G race.