30 January 2019
Fitzpatrick and Kehoe make history as part of British one-two
Menna Fitzpatrick and Jennifer Kehoe became the first British skiers to hold both Paralympic and world titles after hitting the gold standard at the World Para Alpine Skiing Championships.
On a day of double delight for British skiers, Fitzpatrick and her guide Kehoe – Britain’s most successful winter Paralympians – were victorious in the women’s vision-impaired downhill, clinching their third medal of the championships with a superb gold in Sella Nevea, Italy.
Slalom champions at PyeongChang 2018, they were also followed home by Sochi 2014 gold-medallist Kelly Gallagher and guide Gary Smith, who took silver.
“We are delighted with the win, particularly after our disastrous downhill experiences in PyeongChang,” said Kehoe.
“Crossing the finish line having skied well as a team was a massive achievement, particularly given the tricky conditions caused a number of competitors to crash out.”
Fitzpatrick added: “This win is a huge step for us in speed. It’s given us loads of confidence going into the remainder of the races.”
Fitzpatrick, 20, and Kehoe, 35, were first out of the blocks and after coming home in 1:16.09, their cause was aided by misfortune elsewhere.
“Crossing the finish line having skied well as a team was a massive achievement."
Slovakia’s nine-time Paralympic gold-medallist Henrieta Farkasova got off to an impressive start but her run was brought to a jarring end by injury.
And with the Czech Republic’s Anna Peskova failing to start, that teed up a straight shoot-out for gold between the Brits.
And Gallagher, 33, completed her run in 1:31.59 to get her hands on silver.
“I haven’t entered a downhill since I got badly injured in the 2017 World Champs. I have struggled with confidence ever since,” she said.
“My guide Gary (Smith) has been with me every day since, believing in me and encouraging me; the most supportive guide and so understanding.
“PyeongChang was a disappointment for us because I skied with so much fear and apprehension. It has been so hard, and so it was very special to be able to push out of the start gate and then complete the course – it was emotional.
“It has been an amazing season for us to win those Europa Cup giant slalom races before Christmas and for me to believe in myself again.
“I wanted to prove to myself that we could be competitive again and thank everyone who has helped me get back to racing after 2017. Mission accomplished!”
Elsewhere, James Whitley was 14th in the men’s standing downhill event, crossing the line in 1:03.12 as Switzerland’s Theo Gmur topped the podium.
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