New era for GB Para Nordic skiing as World Cup season begins
Paralympian Scott Meenagh launched the GB team into the opening Para Nordic World Cup of the season this week as competition got underway in Finland.
Meenagh, who completed six cross country and biathlon events in eight days at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Paralympics, is part of a seven-strong British team competing in Vuokatti.
Meenagh, 29, is joined in the squad by Rachel Morris, a Paralympic gold medallist in cycling (2008) and rowing (2016) who has now moved into winter sports, and four-time Paralympian and three-time world champion in sailing Steve Thomas – also a Winter Paralympian in ice sledge hockey.
The other members of the team are Steve Arnold, Terry Ahrens and John Huntingdon as well as 22-year-old Callum Deboys, who was inspired to take up the sport after meeting Meenagh.
More British athletes are being given opportunities to compete at the highest level in the sport this year, following the integration of the Armed Forces Para-Snowsport Team (AFPST) and British Parasnowsport under the all-encompassing GB Parasnowsport umbrella.
“The AFPST have done a really great job in the past to do what they could to support the elite level of the sport but the funding required to maintain world class programmes simply wasn’t there,” said Dan Hunt, GB Snowsport performance director.
Rachel Morris at the 2016 Rio Paralympics
“When we decided we would integrate the Parasnowsport programmes under the GB Snowsport banner we knew we didn’t want to leave anyone behind, and that included transitioning the elite AFPST nordic skiers into programmes being supported by us as the national governing body.
“The cooperation during the transition has been fantastic. It has been a collaborative effort from all the coaches, managers, support staff and of course the athletes, and everyone is tremendously excited by what can be achieved and it all starts this week in Finland.”
On the first day of competition in Vuokatti four Brits competed in the men’s sitting, with Meenagh 12th, Arnold 18th, Thomas 20th and Deboys 22nd – Huntingdon finished 24th in the men’s standing.
Meenagh, Britain’s first Nordic skier to compete at a Winter Paralympics in 20 years, and his teammates, are competing against 18 Paralympic gold medallists in Finland as they begin a four-year cycle ahead of Beijing 2022.
Hunt added: “There is a lot of work still to be done if we are going to be podium-competitive in Beijing 2022, but I have no doubt we have athletes who have the potential to make it to the top.
“Plus, we’re now in a position to open up a wider pathway to athletes who may not necessarily have come from a military background who otherwise had to wait to be invited to train with the AFPST because it was the only avenue available to them.
“Whatever results come in Finland, this week marks an important step in the journey to Beijing and beyond, and we couldn’t be more excited to get things underway.”
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