Today, I (Jess) am handing the reins over to the wonderful Jayne Kavanagh, who is an Athlete Development Manager for the British Paralympic Association to give you all her perspective on the past 10 days in Sochi. Jayne works closely with the Help for Heroes Sports Recovery Team, and plays a key part in identifying and developing talented Athletes who have been Wounded Sick or Injured whilst in service. So, without further ado, I’ll leave you in Jayne’s capable hands.
Wow, well, where do I begin to sum up such an amazingly fantastic experience?! I suppose the first thing to say is that the Winter Games in Sochi has been absolutely phenomenal, immensely inspiring and everyone is so impressed with ParalympicsGB’s performance – didn’t they do well!
One medal that is part of ParalympicsGB’s haul is an elusive Gold, which was won by Kelly Gallagher and Charlotte Evans in the Women’s Visually Impaired Super G; making it the first ever Gold Medal won on Snow by a GB athlete – in both the Paralympics and Olympics! The fact that the Inspiration Programme Athletes were able to witness such a historic moment was a particular high point for me. In the same race, Jade Etherington and Caroline Powell secured a Bronze medal, which meant that during the medal ceremony two union jacks were raised – talk about a Goosebumps moment! I think that day is one that will go down in everyone’s ‘personal history books’ and will be spoken of for years to come.
A unique element of this year’s Paralympic Inspiration Programme was the inclusion of a cohort of Athletes selected and funded by Help for Heroes; we call these our Military PiP. The other group of Athletes on the Programme had been selected by the Governing bodies of each involved sport; these are our Sport PiP. It was interesting to watch how both groups seemed to unify on day one; in fact, half way through day one it was hard to see any division between the two groups!
The Athletes on the Inspiration Programme were expected to embark on a pretty full-on programme whilst in Sochi, and they really did themselves proud and worked incredibly hard. There has been a wonderful balance of most things going really smoothly and then also a few challenges too! The programme has been an exceptionally immersive experience for the guys, which has given them the tools to deal with any ups and downs they encounter at their first competitive Games. I spoke Andy Barlow, one of the Athletes on the Inspiration programme, and his comments really seemed to sum up pretty much everyone’s feelings, he said: “I have loved every minute of being in Sochi – to be witnessing history in the making and supporting ParalympicsGB has been a once in a lifetime opportunity. Roll on PyeongChang!”
Now, on to the sport, it goes without saying that we have enjoyed the Skiing immensely; Mick Brennan in particular has been a massive hit, as too have Jade, James, Ben and Kelly. However, I don’t think I could have predicted just how much everyone would fall in love with Sledge Hockey! We definitely have a hardened selection of avid fans! I think they have been spotted on camera at every match thus far! We are incredibly excited about the curling – with a chance of a medal and getting through in such a nail-biting fashion, it is our one to keep an eye on tomorrow!
Also, we are all incredibly excited about the curling, especially how we keep getting through in such a nail-biting fashion! With a chance of a medal it is our one to keep an eye on tomorrow!
Finally, as I near the end of my time in Sochi, I can’t help but feel humbled, inspired and massively proud of everything that has been achieved over the past ten days and how dedicated and focused all our Athletes have been.