Page 3 Profile: Kelly Gallagher & Charlotte Evans, skiers

 

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The Independent Online

More medals for Team GB?  Is it 2012 again?

Nope, it’s 2014 and Kelly Gallagher  (right) and Charlotte Evans have made history, scooping Britain’s first ever gold medal at the Winter Paralympics. Gallagher (right), the visually-impaired skier, and her guide, Evans, triumphed in the Women’s Super-G (super-giant slalom) event, setting a course time of 1:28.72 seconds. All this after Jade Etherington and guide, Caroline Powell, took the bronze in the same event, to go with the silver they won in the downhill on Saturday.

The Winter Paralympics are going quite well, then?

Absolutely. Britain has had athletes competing in every Winter Paralympics since the first event in 1976 in Sweden. The three medals won so far surpass the minimum target of two set by UK Sport.

Skiing without sight? How?

Gallagher, 28, from Bangor, County Down, has oculocutaneous albinism, an inherited condition affecting pigment in the skin, hair and eyes. It also causes vision problems. When she skis, she can see little but the orange jacket of her guide. The only way she can tell how fast she is moving is by the force of the wind in her face. Evans, 22, from Chatham, Kent, acts as her eyes on the slopes. Gallagher said: “The good thing is that I’ve had it since I was born, so I haven’t had to go through having perfect eyesight and then suddenly losing it.”

Does this arrangement work?

Seamlessly. The pair communicate on their way down the slopes via bluetooth headsets as they travel at speeds of up to 62mph. Evans wears a high-visibility orange jacket which Gallagher focuses on and follows. “She can be so mean to me on the course, but that means that I can ski better,” Gallagher said. “I was yelling a lot and she wasn’t doing what I told her, but finally it paid off… We won a gold medal and it feels amazing.”

Can I sense some friction?

No, just the determination of two athletes who are breaking new records. Since joining forces, they have won silver and bronze medals in the 2011 and 2013 World Championships as well as World Cup honours. But this is surely one of their sweetest victories. Evans said: “I’m proud to be representing my country and I’m so proud to be Kelly’s guide.” Gallagher said: “I couldn’t have done it without Charlotte’s constant determination and talent.  She’s a star.”

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