I’m Kelly Gallagher (www.kelly-gallagher.co.uk), visually impaired ski racer from Bangor, County Down. I ski race in five disciplines, slalom, giant slalom, super-g, super combined and downhill with a fully sighted guide, Charlotte Evans (@charevans1) who is an ex-racer herself. Charlotte wears a luminous orange bib in order for me to see her and we communicate through the course with Bluetooth radio devises. Charlotte skis in front of me and lets me know what is coming up, bumps, ice, rollers, compressions etc. without which, I would not be able to make it through the race course.
I’ve achieved 4th and 6th place finishes at my first paralympic games in Vancouver in 2010 and with Charlotte we’ve progressed up the world rankings and won silver and bronze medals in slalom and giant slalom in 2011 at the World Championships in Sestriere, Italy. We are preparing for another world championship season where we will compete in all five disciplines and hope to better our performance.
Full time training
We train full time on snow during the autumn and winter, mainly in Austria. And in the remaining six months of the year, we are full-time supported athletes at the Sports Institute Northern Ireland (www.sini.co.uk), where we go for strength and conditioning and physiotherapy.
Skiing with a disability
Skiing is something truly amazing for me. Life with a visual impairment or disability can be so very frustrating at times. There are many daily tasks like driving or reading that require adaptations or you are incapable of doing without someone else’s help, so for me, skiing has a freedom that is unrivalled in any other sport I’ve participated in and while I’m skiing, I’m an equal, able to keep up with and now, outski my family and friends. For this reason, I’m keen to encourage families with children with disabilities not to be deterred from taking a ski holiday. And hope, in the very near future we have Ireland’s first Winter Paralympian in alpine skiing !
Please feel free to keep up with Charlotte and me during the season,
- Web : www.kelly-gallagher.co.uk
- Twitter : @kellygallagher / @charevans1
- Facebook : www.facebook.com/kellyandcharlotte
Ski holiday tips
Charlotte and my top tips for your ski holiday this year are:
- Be safe – wear a helmet, you go to extraordinary lengths to protect items like your laptop, phone so why not your wealth! Charlotte and I wear, helmet, back protector, shin guards, chin guards gum shields and padding so that we can bash through the gates.
- Save some cash – Try to get all your ski stuff from family, friends and outlet stores before you go, resort prices are terribly inflated.
- Learn the basics – We’re world cup racers and still ‘go back to basics’ every morning in order to improve our skiing, so it’s important to learn the foundations from a good instructor, that way you’ll be able to tackle any slope on the mountain. When you come up against something you find difficult, maybe a steep slope or choppy terrain, you’ll be able to think back to what your instructor might advise and be able to conquer the challenge for yourself.
- Recover after skiing – stretch, eat well, get a good night’s sleep for your next day’s skiing. And at altitude and in the cold, you’ll not feel thirsty but drinking plenty of hydrating drinks can rid you of a headache and let you enjoy the mountains. Being athletes all this comes quite naturally to Charlotte and I. I’m not sure how much stretching and avoiding alcohol sits with some holiday revellers.
- Be smart – we avoid huge queues by having our lunch early, so while everyone else is waiting in line in the mountain top restaurant we’re out at the lift, and on the empty slopes.
- Have fun – this is the most important tip, if you’re not having fun, try out all the other mountain activities, dog sledding or show shoeing or relax at the resort spa.