Helen Grant, Minister for Sport blogs for ParalympicsGB
on 07-03-2014 09:06
Tomorrow the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi will be underway.
This is the pinnacle of Paralympic winter sport and to have qualified to compete here, on the world stage, means these young men and women are at the very top of their game.
Years of dedication, training and sacrifice have gone into preparing for this moment, so it’s a source of real pride that we have 15 athletes ready to give it their all for the chance of Paralympic glory; for a chance to write their names in the history books of international sport.
Sochi’s Paralympic Games are going to be big. There are more athletes and more countries competing than ever before. That means competition will be fierce, and the margins between winning and losing will be fine. We have seen time and time again that there are no guarantees in sport, but I’m excited that we have some very strong medal prospects in Kelly Gallagher and guide Charlotte Evans, Jade Etherington and guide Caroline Powell and sit-skier Anna Turney, all of whom have won international medals this year.
As for others to watch out for in Sochi? Well, the ski team includes the youngest ever British Winter Paralympian in 15-year-old Millie Knight - who will also be ParalympicsGB's flagbearer at tonight's Opening Ceremony - and the mixed curling team for Sochi includes Aileen Neilson, the only female skip at international level, and one athlete who was part of the Turin silver medal-winning side - Angie Malone.
I’ll also be looking out for Mick Brennan who came through the military Battle Back programme with Help for Heroes. Injured while on duty in Iraq in 2004, he started to learn adaptive skiing in 2008 as part of his rehabilitation programme. From the Combined Services Disabled Ski Team, Mick made his international debut on the sporting stage in 2010 – and now he is representing his country at the Paralympic Games. An amazing, inspirational story.
The athletes heading out to Sochi could not do it by themselves, however. So, a huge thank you to all those people behind the scenes – coaches, trainers, families, physios, doctors, BPA and UK Sport staff – the list goes on. All work tirelessly to make sure our athletes are the best prepared.
I was due to go out to Sochi next week, however, given current geopolitical events, the Prime Minister has rightly decided that Ministers should not be travelling to Russia.
However, I want the whole team to know that I – and all of the UK – are completely behind them, supporting them 100%. We are proud of you and wish you every success for a fantastic 2014 Paralympic Games. Good luck.