JADE Etherington admitted she was struggling to take it all in as she became the first British woman ever to win a Paralympic skiing medal after taking downhill silver on day one of Sochi 2014.
In the same race Paralympics GB’s Kelly Gallagher and Charlotte Evans finished sixth, with Anna Turney crashing out in the sitting class at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre.
Elsewhere, in the Ice Cube Curling Centre, the wheelchair curlers suffered an agonising 6-3 defeat to defending Paralympic champions Canada despite a promising start.
Visually impaired skier Etherington, 23, flew down the course with guide Caroline Powell in a time of 1min 34.28sec.
Etherington’s performance also marked a first medal on snow for Great Britain since 1994 and their first in any winter sport at a Paralympic Games since Turin 2006.
And after crashing out on what proved to be her last practice run just two days before the competition – the final practice being postponed on Friday – Etherington was ecstatic with the result.
“I can’t believe what’s just happened, we knew it was a solid run because we were shouting ‘go, go, go’ and we had good, solid communication,” said Etherington.
“I’m so proud and excited and I can’t wait to get that medal in my hands. It all came together and we knew it was a good solid run and I think just the last year has proven how well we’ve developed. I actually was really happy there was no training run, because personally I feel if you are going to be scared for your life for one minute, you might as well get a result at the end of it.
“Training is good, to see the hill and everything, we had a good training run the first day and (not going) the day before really benefited us to think we can go for it tomorrow, and that’s what we did.
“My skiing has improved so much and with the team and Caroline so supportive whether I’m skiing well or having a bad day. I think it really works and we’re just really honest with each other. If something’s annoying us or we’re happy about something we build on from that. That was actually only the third downhill we’ve ever done together but I knew we could do it.”
Both Etherington and Powell are competing at their first Games, having joined forces only back in August and having had two competitive downhill runs before the Paralympics. But Powell insists their ever-strengthening friendship was crucial. “She taught me so much about guiding, I just went with what she said and it has just worked, it has come together now and we’re just so happy.”
Down by the coast, the wheelchair curling quartet of Aileen Neilson, Bob McPherson, Gregor Ewan and Jim Gault made a bright start against Canada to take a 3-2 lead after three ends.
The gold medallists from Vancouver 2010 responded, however, and, after levelling 3-3, an error from skip Neilson gave them the steal to lead 4-3 after six ends.
That proved costly, as the favourites scored a further two from the remaining two ends to take the victory, but Neilson is confident her team can take the positives into their double header against Sweden and South Korea today.
“Canada had the opportunities and some they took and some they didn’t either, but we just have to focus on ourselves and not worry about the opposition,” she said.
“We’re feeling confident. We’ve played Sweden a lot and if we can come out the way we did this morning, very focused, very confident, then I’m sure we can have the same good start.
“We worked really well on the ice. For a few of the guys, it’s their first games at a Paralympics and I think that they put in an awesome display out there, very supportive of me and great team dynamics.”
Also speaking after the defeat was Bob McPherson, one of three debutants in the Great Britain team at the Sochi Games.
And after revelling in his first experience of a Paralympics, McPherson admits he cannot wait to get back out on the ice in search of a first win.
“It was a whirlwind, I really enjoyed it,” he said. “I’m keen to get back out on the ice now. That was always going to be a hard game and we’ll see how we can go from here.”n Sainsbury’s is a proud long-term supporter of the British Paralympic Association and a champion of inclusive sport for all. For more information on the Sainsbury’s commitment to inclusive sport visit: www.Sainsburys.co.uk/activekids