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GB announce strong team for Sochi Paralympics
23 Jan 2014 - 09:41 am
  • GB announce strong team for Sochi Paralympics

Great Britain will send a team of 15 athletes to Sochi in March as they target a first-ever gold medal at a Winter Paralympics.

In alpine skiing, visually impaired trio Kelly Gallagher, Jade Etherington and Millie Knight will race with their respective guides Charlotte Evans, Caroline Powell and Rachael Ferrier.

Mick Brennan, Ben Sneesby and Anna Turney will compete in sit-skiing, and teenager James Whitley will represent ParalympicsGB in the standing events.

The wheelchair curling line-up of Aileen Neilson, Tom Killin, Gregor Ewan, Rob McPherson and Angie Malone, which was finalised in December, takes the total number of team members to 15.

The Games in Russia run from 7-16 March and UK Sport has set a target of between two and six medals.

I'm confident that I will be leading a team with some of the best prepared athletes that have ever represented ParalympicsGB at a Winter Games - GB Chef de Mission Penny Briscoe

Penny Briscoe, ParalympicsGB Chef de Mission, said: "We have selected some incredibly talented skiers, some of whom are very experienced and some of whom are exciting prospects, not just for Sochi but also for future Games.

"I am confident that I will be leading a team in Sochi with some of the best prepared athletes that have ever represented ParalympicsGB at a Winter Games, but we will not take anything for granted." 

ParalympicsGB’s record winter medals haul is 10 at Innsbruck in 1984 but the team has taken just one medal from the last four Games – wheelchair curling silver at Turin in 2006 - and British athletes have never struck gold.

One of GB’s strongest hopes for gold in Sochi is Gallagher, who finished fourth in the giant slalom at the Vancouver Games four years ago and won two silver and two bronze medals at last year’s IPC World Skiing Championships.

The 28-year-old from County Down in Northern Ireland has been in fine form with guide Evans, despite missing six months in 2013 after hip surgery.

In Sochi, Gallagher will be up against GB team-mate Etherington, 22, who with guide Powell has finished regularly on the podium at Europa Cup and World Cup events so far this season.

Brennan, nicknamed ‘Monoski Mick’, is a retired Army sergeant who lost both his legs in a suicide bombing in Iraq in 2004. 

The 34-year-old first started skiing with a monoski in 2008 as part of the Ministry of Defence’s Battle Back rehabilitation programme and has only recently returned to the slopes after a wrist injury.

I’d like to particularly thank my mum, who was my first ever guide - 15-year-old Millie Knight

Turney had been competing to join the GB snowboard team when she broke her back in a crash on the slopes in Japan seven years ago. The 34-year-old from Warwick finished sixth in the slalom at the Vancouver Paralympics.

The ParalympicsGB selectors also have high hopes for a trio of talented teenagers. Sneesby, 19, Whitley, 16, and Knight, who has just turned 15, are seen as potential medallists at future Games.

Knight, who will be Britain’s youngest ever Winter Paralympian, said: "Having only joined the team in 2012, it’s been an amazing few years to get this far… 

"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."

GB will be represented in two of the five Winter Paralympic sports, having failed to gain qualification places in ice sledge hockey, cross-country skiing and biathlon.

The wheelchair curlers, who will be led by skip Neilson, also have high hopes for a medal after winning three gold and one silver in tournaments so far this season.

Neilson’s team-mates Malone and Killin were both part of the team that won silver in Turin in 2006, and Neilson competed with them in Vancouver, where GB finished sixth. 

Ewan and McPherson will be making their Paralympic debuts, while 63-year-old Killin is preparing for a fifth Games, having also won four wheelchair fencing medals at the Summer Paralympics in 1980 and 1984.

Channel 4 will be bringing you the very best of the Sochi Games, broadcasting more than 45 hours of live action from across the five sports

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