Rob Richardson: Can Brits pick up first winter Paralympic gold?

It’s time to inspire the next generation of winter Paralympians in Great Britain, and thus making the podium is more important than ever.

Great Britain's Kelly Gallagher with guide Charlotte Evans Great Britain's Kelly Gallagher won gold in the downhill visually impaired race at the 2012 IPC Alpine Skiing Europa Cup in Tignes, France. © • Nicolas NEREAU
By Rob Richardson

I wish all the ParalympicsGB team the very best of luck in Sochi. Congratulations on reaching the pinnacle of your sports, and now it’s time to bring those medals home to inspire the next generation of Brits in winter sports.

In Great Britain, our enthusiasm for both the Winter Olympics and Paralympics is growing every year, with more funding, media exposure and importantly success making some athletes household names which is fantastic to see.

As someone who has competed at a summer Paralympics in sitting volleyball, I'm a big believer in athletes in all sports getting the coverage and respect they deserve.

Having said that, there is no better way to do this than by winning a gold medal.

Amy Williams, the Olympic skeleton athlete, was able to brilliantly win Britain's first Winter Olympic gold at Vancouver 2010, and then Lizzy Yarnold repeated that success with a gold in the sport at the Sochi 2014 Olympics.

But on the Paralympic side of things, Great Britain haven’t been able to manage a gold before in the Winter Games, so is Sochi going to be the place for our first?

I think it might just be.

From what I have heard, the 12 British athletes from alpine skiing and wheelchair curling have been brilliantly prepared by their staff at the respective sports and centrally by ParalympicsGB.

Sadly, though, there is no British representation in Nordic skiing or my favourite winter sport of ice sledge hockey, which I used to play regularly a few years ago.

It's a shame that my mate Ian Warner and his team didn't qualify, but I know they will rebuild and go again for PyeongChang 2018, as this is certainly one of the sports that can drive real interest back home because it is such a great spectator sport.

So, of those British athletes who are attending, who is the best medal prospect?

Well, there are a few who stand out, but no one more so than Kelly Gallagher (and guide Charlotte Evans) in alpine skiing in the women’s visually impaired class. You also cannot discount the value of experience either, and the wheelchair curling team would love a gold to go with the silver and bronze Paralympic medals they’ve already won.

Having said that, it's all about how athletes handle the occasion. People tell you to just treat it like any other competition, but that is not possible because this is THE competition.

My advice? Simple. Just go and enjoy the occasion. Harness it to make you better.

I wish all the ParalympicsGB team the very best of luck in Sochi. Congratulations on reaching the pinnacle of your sports, and now it’s time to bring those medals home to inspire the next generation of Brits in winter sports.

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Rob Richardson Rob Richardson © • Getty Images
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