Friday 20 April 2018

Duo faced with dilemma in Sochi

Kelly Gallagher, pictured, and guide Charlotte Evans saw their hopes ended after the slalom
Kelly Gallagher, pictured, and guide Charlotte Evans saw their hopes ended after the slalom

Visually-impaired skier Jade Etherington and guide Caroline Powell faced a dilemma over whether to push for a maiden gold or settle for a lesser colour after all but guaranteeing a third medal on their Winter Paralympics debut in Sochi.

The duo were one of only three pairs who remained in contention at the halfway stage of a savage super-combined on Tuesday.

They already have a silver and a bronze in the bag - or in Etherington's case under her pillow - and were on course for another second place after an eventful slalom stage.

With three of the six entrants out of the competition, the British duo need only finish the super-G segment, now set for Friday, to guarantee a medal.

There was, though, a tantalising chance to risk going for gold, albeit in the knowledge that crashing out would leave them empty-handed.

They are currently in second place, with a lead of 6.68 seconds over American Danelle Umstead, but 3.12secs down on Russian leader Aleksandra Frantceva.

Fog and rain made for challenging conditions at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre and Tuesday morning's scheduled super-G stage was postponed, with the afternoon's slalom part run first instead.

Lincoln skier Etherington said: "The slalom was really hard, so we are really happy to get down. With the fog and rain and the delays in the morning we were happy with the race.

"When the fog came you realised how much everyone else relies on their eyesight, but I trusted Caroline could see the gates and we are just trying our best.

Powell added: "In the morning it was so foggy I couldn't even see the gate in front of me in the super-G, so I'm glad that was postponed.

"I am glad that we have got down and that we are able to race another day. Bring on the super-G."

In contrast, team-mates Kelly Gallagher and Charlotte Evans were one of the pairs who saw their hopes ended after the slalom. Slovakia's Henrieta Farkasova and Australia's Melissa Perrine were the others to go out.

It was a mistake from visually-impaired skier Gallagher which proved costly as she missed a gate and fell, meaning the duo failed to finish.

Their immediate preparation, though, had been far from ideal. Their bluetooth radio headsets failed to work, meaning they had to rely on back-up ones, hurriedly fetched from the athletes' village, while Evans was also ill on Monday night.

"We were skiing really well, we were probably skiing the best slalom we've done this season," said Evans.

"That's what happens, when you're putting your all into something, mistakes happen and sometimes you lose concentration."

The spare headsets were an old pair, and the duo revealed they kept cutting out ahead of their run. They worked on the way down, though, and both Gallagher and Evans refused to blame the problem for their result.

There was better news for sit-skier Anna Turney and Mick Brennan, who both completed their super-combined slalom runs.

Turney was fifth, albeit well off the medal pace after a "huge mistake" saw her miss a gate and have to hike five metres back up the hill to go through it properly.

Brennan was ninth after admitting skiing at 40 per cent to ensure he did not crash out.

The rearrangement of the super-G part of the super-combined meant the slalom was brought forward to Wednesday. It will see 15-year-old Millie Knight, the opening ceremony flagbearer, make her Paralympic debut, with guide Rachael Ferrier.

Press Association

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