26 June 2018
Fitzpatrick: We're already well on the road to Beijing
The preparation starts now
Menna Fitzpatrick doesn’t do hanging around – she’s already planning for the cold all over again.
To be thinking of the slopes when the nation swelters in heat may not be an opinion widely shared, but then this 20-year-old doesn’t do things to fit the norm.
As a Paralympic champion and Great Britain’s most successful winter Paralympian of all time, Fitzpatrick’s life has changed beyond what even she considered possible.
But if thoughts centred around dwelling on hers and guide Jen Kehoe’s near-perfect PyeongChang, that couldn’t be further from the truth – the countdown to Beijing 2022 is on.
As visually impaired skier Fitzpatrick herself attests to, a lot can happen in four years but this is not a time for laurels to be rested on, even with the next dose of competitive action coming as late as December.
Menna Fitzpatrick and Jennifer Kehoe enjoyed a highly successful Paralympic Winter Games
Duo going back to basics
“Jen and I are aiming for Beijing and there’s not actually much time, there is only 50 hours of competitive skiing time before then – it’s barely anything,” she explained.
“We’re all about knocking everything down and building it up in the right way when we get back in proper training.
“Competition doesn’t start until the beginning of December so now is all about training, getting back in the gym – and while it’s difficult to start again it’s really important.
“So to make that time worthwhile you have to go back to basics and make sure you’re going about the right movements in the right way before you get to gate training.
“It’s what we did last summer and we’ve proved it works, then we got back into it and had an amazing World Cup season even before PyeongChang.”
To be recognised among them can do wonders for disability sports, to be the youngest recipient in the Queen’s Birthday honours is a nice added bonus and that’s just super cool
Young star enjoys a right Royal visit
If taking things down and building them back up again sounds familiar then it should. It was, after all, Fitzpatrick and Kehoe’s route to Korean gold just a few months ago.
A first-day crash in the downhill was far from the PyeongChang plan but from there the experience of a maiden Paralympics only went up, securing a medal in each of the four subsequent para-alpine skiing events.
The best was very much saved for last too, an historic moment coming in their fifth and final race, the slalom. A golden addition to their already-hefty luggage.
It’s a moment that has changed the life of Fitzpatrick both on and off the snow, still causing a surprise each and every time she has the chance to show off her collection.
And that that will also very soon contain an MBE.
“It’s been a few weeks since I found out but I haven’t been to the Palace yet – that is still to come,” she added.
“It was really hard to hide, I’m terrible at keeping secrets but my family knew, it was just hard not to tell everyone else about what was going on.
“I had to tell Jen to go home and look at the post – I knew the news but she was away so had no idea and I didn’t want to ruin the surprise, so I had to tell her without telling her in some weird way.
“I couldn’t read my letter so I thought my dad was joking when he mentioned about it, then he read the full letter out and I realised how official it sounded – then I realised it was real!
“People mentioned about an MBE and I always thought it would be cool, but I never really expected to get the letter.
“But for me the main reason I’m excited is for the sport – Paralympic sport is growing and it will only get bigger if we get recognition of what we do, just the same as the able-bodied athletes.
“To be recognised among them can do wonders for disability sports, to be the youngest recipient in the Queen’s Birthday honours is a nice added bonus and that’s just super cool.”
Fitpatrick and Kehoe won four medals in PyeongChang
Hungry for more success
Thankfully for Fitzpatrick, the attention that has surrounded her ever since her success with ParalympicsGB is not something she has become bored of just yet.
Still aged just 20, the novelty is far from wearing off – just as well when she wants to do it all over again at Beijing 2022.
By that point, Kehoe may well be at her last Games – should they make it – due to return to the Army. It’s not just Fitzpatrick who is watching the clock.
But for now the two are content at putting in the hard yards in and out of the gym, with a new dose of publicity coming their way, one they still aren’t quite fully used to.
And with each request for a photo with Menna and her medals comes the same old question – one she finally has an answer for.
She added: “People always think the medals are heavy so I actually got them weighed to give people an answer – the gold one is 600g.
You get little kids wanting to dress up as you, wanting to meet you, aspiring to be like you at sports days and it’s really nice to be an inspiration for people
Recognition from all sides
“To have this all as part of my life has been really cool, it’s a whole other world that I didn’t really know existed beforehand and both Jen and I have really enjoyed the chance to think about our lives in a completely different way.
“It’s quite refreshing and nice to talk about your achievements, it helps you realise just what you’ve done and how much notice you’re getting for what’s happened.
“It gives you a chance to go again as well, you’re improving both on and off the snow and you’re enjoying learning your audience, the people you’re telling your story to make a big difference.
“It’s weird, I’ll go and introduce myself to people and they know who I am, that’s something that’s just so nice.
“You get little kids wanting to dress up as you, wanting to meet you, aspiring to be like you at sports days and it’s really nice to be an inspiration for people.”
And an inspiration she will continue to be. Now Beijing awaits.
Joint the ParalympicsGB movement
The ParalympicsGB movement
15 January 2020
Fitzpatrick: Adapting to a new guide is a big challenge
16 October 2019
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Fitzpatrick and Kehoe sign off with World Cup gold
14 March 2019