Sport

The Forces Athletes Who Are Competing In The Winter Paralympics

With the Winter Paralympics officially underway, Forces Network has taken a look at the British military athletes who are on show...

With the Winter Paralympics officially underway, Forces Network has taken a look at the British military athletes who are on show...

Scott Meenagh: Para-Nordic Skiing

 

Scott Meenagh

British Army veteran Scott Meenagh has been selected for the ParalympicsGB team for this year's Winter Games.

The 28-year-old from Cumbernauld, in North Lanarkshire, Scotland, is the first UK athlete to compete in para-Nordic skiing since 1998.

It's a Paralympic Winter Games debut for Meenagh, a double-leg amputee who was injured whilst on active service in Afghanistan at the age of 21, with his selection meaning ParalympicsGB is represented in a historic five sports.

Scott told us about his motivation for competing in the Winter Paralympics: 

"We're so lucky to be here- to be here and to be smashing life feels amazing.

"What leads you to the highest stages of sport is that you want to challenge yourself, and be a better version of yourself every single day."

Gary Smith, Jennifer Kehoe and Brett Wild: Paralympic Skier Guides

 

gary smith
Gary Smith pictured at Meribel 2017

The RAF's Gary Smith, 33, has been selected to guide visually impaired skier and reigning Paralympic champion Kelly Gallagher MBE.

Gallagher (right) with previous guide Charlotte Evans at the 2013 International Paralympic Committee World Championships
Kelly Gallagher MBE (right with previous guide Charlotte Evans in 2013). Picture: Raystorm

It was a late selection for Kelly due to injury, but nevertheless, she's made it onto the Paralympic team for the third time.

It's Gary's first games, however, and he's excited. He said:

"It was amazing when we heard the news. We put everything into training, and getting the email to say we were selected was brilliant."

The pair is competing at the Games alongside teammates Millie Knight and Menna Fitzpatrick, who race with their guides Brett Wild, of the Royal Navy, and the Army's Jennifer Kehoe.

This means each of the ParalympicsGB ski guides has been drawn from a different military service.

Gary added: "It's great to have tri-service guides. I knew all of them already from skiing with the military and doing the Inter-Services, so to go to the games with them is going to be pretty special."  

Able Seaman Wild, a 23-year-old steward on HMS Ambush, guided Millie on the slopes at the recent World Cup in Austria and then Aspen, winning the downhill race and then the overall Super G. He says he's feeling confident about the Games: 

"We're feeling quite confident - we're just hoping we can peak at the Olympics and get to where we think we belong."

Meanwhile, Jennifer and Menna were the first British skiers to win the overall World Cup Crystal globe in 2016 and are competing in the visually-impaired category.

With Jennifer as her guide, Menna can reach speeds of more than 110 kilometres per hour - and the forces woman is looking forward to competing alongside her services team-mates: 

"To have all three military guides representing is awesome- obviously the ultimate goal would be to have a full British podium, and we have that opportunity now."

Owen Pick: Para-Snowboarding

 

Owen Pick

Owen Pick, an Afghanistan veteran who lost a limb after being injured by an IED at the age of 18, was chosen to carry the GB flag after becoming part of the first Great Britain para-snowboarding squad to compete at a Winter Paralympics.

Owen, who was on his first tour with 1st Battalion, the Royal Anglian Regiment as a private when he was seriously injured, opted to have his right leg amputated below the knee 18 months later.

Having already enjoyed success at the World Championships, he is competing in the snowboard cross and banked slalom events.

Owen is an old friend of Scott's, having been treated alongside him at Headley Court, and says he's excited to be competing alongside him: 

"It's nice to see us start the process of being injured together, and now we’re going to the same games, which is just incredible."

"Neither of us really planned it - it's just sort of happened!"

A handful of forces athletes who won't be competing will be among those travelling to Pyeongchang, meanwhile.

They'll be experiencing the Paralympic Inspiration Programme (PiP), absorbing the scale of the Games with a view to participating in future.

Former Army Major Cornelia Oosthuzien, who medalled in golf and wheelchair tennis at last year's Invictus Games in Toronto, is one of those on the plane.

She recently spoke with Forces Radio BFBS Presenter, Adam Powney - just click below to listen:

The PiP partnership, between the British Paralympic Association and Help for Heroes, has come full circle.

Scott Meenagh got his first taste of winter sport in Sochi as part of the programme and is now donning the GB vest four years later.

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