Kelly Gallagher and guide Gary Smith competing at IPC alpine skiing World Cup Finals February 2016

Kelly Gallagher and guide Gary Smith competing at IPC alpine skiing World Cup Finals February 2016

It has been nearly a year since our last update. A lot has happened. (a massive understatement). We’ve loved sharing all the news through our Facebook page and Twitter accounts (here and here) and speaking to anyone and everyone who wants to hear about our amazing sport and progress. Here is one example.

This update feels like it requires a more detailed post.

Last time we were on snow together was on 13th January. Charlotte and I were working on gliding, which every ski racer works on for Downhill and Super G training. As a pair, we also work on our spacing over the flats and transition from steep to flat terrain. Spacing of athlete and guide is a characteristic unique to visually impaired ski racing since this category of the sport involves two people on the same course trying to be as close to one another as possible, rather than one racer. If Charlotte becomes too far ahead, from steep to flat or by accelerating across the flats, she has to slow down because I have to communicate with her via my headset to let her know that I cannot see, by which time we’ve lost speed and usually don’t have an opportunity to regain that on the flats. I am heavier than Charlotte, too, so when we are on the flats and tight together, I can end up drafting in her slipstream. This is a situation that we practise and explore often. It is a delicate skill and involves a great deal of communication and time on snow together.

Charlotte and I have been skiing together for over five years, during which time we’ve had lots of bumps, crashes and falls. Most of those have been me. This time, however, I injured Charlotte. I clipped the back of her skis, while moving from right to left as I was drafting in her slipstream. Both of us fell, but Charlotte fell very hard. At first instance I thought she had reinjured her ACL, as knees are every skier’s worst fear when injured! Initially Charlotte couldn’t communicate anything about her own fall because – ever the professional guide – she was asking me how I was! (I was totally fine!). At the scene it appeared that Charlotte had hurt her left shoulder, maybe a subluxation or dislocation.

I know Charlotte very well. She doesn’t complain, ever, so if she ever does, it’s serious. She also hates fuss, so persuading her to go to the doctor or hospital straight away was difficult. She knows her own mind too, so it’s extra hard to boss her about and tell her she’s going to hospital. In hindsight, I should’ve bossed her about more and been more stern about calling a day to the training session, but it is very hard to do so when you’re focused athletes training together for world champs. As a result, I didn’t notice the gravity of the accident.

Only after spending the rest of the day skiing together, followed by a night’s sleep and finally a trip to the doctor in Austria, did we learn that Charlotte may have suffered a concussion. Sure enough, when we returned to London and sought medical help from the EIS doctor, we found out that Charlotte had suffered a serious concussion and is now, a month on, still recovering and unfit to return to activity or snow.

Concussion is horrible! I’ve had at least three.

We have experienced and overcome many physical injuries together. From strained ligaments to hip surgery to bone bruises to surgical dentistry to loss of hearing, the list is extensive. Some of the crashes and falls were dramatic; some were trivial. Some lingered on and became chronic injuries, and some recovered so well that we forgot about the whole incident. Concussion is different, in that it’s unique to each person and, the first time, it is terribly scary. People’s reaction to hearing you have a concussion is totally different in comparison to their reaction if they see you on crutches in an air boot. I think that’s because they can relate to injury of a bone break or a strained ligament or bruised muscle, but with concussion, they can’t understand the nausea, confusion, inability to concentrate, frustration, the ebb and flow of energy, sensitivity to light, noise and smells and the lack of confidence in when you’re going to feel better. It is really misunderstood.

Since last year’s Games, all we’ve been asked is about our next event. “When will you compete next?”; “World champs – when are they, where are they?” and the inevitable…”Do you think you’ll win?”

We are as focused as ever on competing to the best of our abilities, and we know that our best is really great. However since 13th January our main focus and that of our families and medical team (physiotherapists, psychologist and doctor) is more focused on Charlotte’s long term well being than what we can achieve in March in Canada at World Championships.

In the hope that Charlotte will be fit to return to snow soon and that we pull off the most miraculous end to a ski season ever, I am getting ready to “compete” next week in at least one of the EC finals. Ross, our coach, is stepping into the role of guide! I’m delighted that he has kept our dream of competing at World Champs alive, and the purpose of the upcoming race is to enable me to fulfil the eligibility criteria from the IPC which states that I have to have achieve race points in the 2014/15 season. Mine and Charlotte’s form is fine, so the race points don’t matter for qualification, it’s just a funny little hurdle we need to overcome. And in the meantime, Charlotte can remain in England as she continues to recover.

Of course, this could all be in vain. Next week the advice from EIS could be that Charlotte is still not able to take on guiding or racing at World Champs.

Once again we aren’t ashamed to throw everything we’ve got at our performance plan and just see how it goes.

Leaving Sochi, knowing that we had put in 100% effort meant that, whatever the results, we were happy. That’s how we approach our sport.

When Charlotte is allowed to use a computer again, or her telephone, she can tell this in her own words and write a blog post from her perspective.

Oh, and….as a funny little aside….feel free to send us all your inspirational memes and quotes! Our friends have been sending us some really cheesy ones of late – you know the ones like, “fall 7 times, get back up 8”, etc. But this one has been my favourite so far……..#Glee #notrelated

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So, we’ve been terrible at updating our blog! Our reasons and excuses include, terrible internet connections, and lots of races. We have lots of news and a season’s worth of fun to cram into this update.

We are however, really are great at updating our facebook page, www.facebook.com/kellyandcharlotte and we’re usually tweeting on twitter, www.twitter.com/charevans1 and www.twitter.com/kellygallagher so for photos, fun and race results it’s best to catch us there.

This season, to avoid burnout, we chose to compete in selected Europa Cup and World Cup races focusing on the 2013 alpine skiing World Championships in La Molina, Spain and concentrating on progressing from technical skiing (GS and slalom) into speed, by competing in all five disciplines, (Downhill, Super-G and Super-Combined too).

We’ve entered 28 races. Four were cancelled, seven races resulted in a DNF, (‘that’s ski racing’) and of the remaining 17 races we achieved THREE gold, EIGHT silver, and SIX bronze medals. So it is fair to say that our season has been successful.

We’ve had times of struggle too. Cancelled races, a string of DNFs, and a season of 2nd and 3rd frustrating place finishes, not racing as well as we train. However, we’ve worked through each obstacle and challenge together, it’s been tough.

Our season ended on a real high, with gold and happiness at the World Cup finals in one of our favourite events, slalom. This triumph was made even sweeter because this is the Paralympic hill in Sochi, Russia. We’re excited to begin the 2013/14 paralympic season, and go back to Sochi to race and achieve our goals.

Pitztal EC GS 2nd

Pitztal EC GS 2nd

Pitztal EC slalom 2nd

Pitztal EC slalom 2nd

Lenk EC 2nd slalom

Lenk EC 2nd slalom

Lenk EC2nd GS

Lenk EC 2nd GS1

lenk EC GS 2nd again

lenk EC GS 2nd again

Panorama of Sestriere World Cup prize giving, 2 bronze medals here in GS and frustration in slalom with 2 DNFs

Panorama of Sestriere World Cup prize giving, 2 bronze medals here in GS and frustration in slalom with 2 DNFs

Tarvisio EC DH 2nd

Tarvisio EC DH 2nd

Tarvisio EC SG 3rd

Tarvisio EC SG 3rd

Tignes EC 1st SG

Tignes EC 1st SG & 1st DH too

our four world championship medals!

our four world championship medals!

long awaited World Cup Gold

long awaited World Cup Gold

happy girls!

happy girls!

really happy girls

really happy girls

Happiness, girls who've just won FOUR medals at World Champs

Happiness, girls who’ve just won FOUR medals at World Champs

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SINI Irish News Article Kelly Gallagher

In the last five race of the season Charlotte and Kelly picked up another 1st in slalom, winning not another medal but a ham, yes, a leg of ham each!

Another "gold" in slalom

Another "gold" in slalom

They also gained more experience in their new disciplines of Super-G and Super-Combined coming 2nd on two races and unfortunately not finishing in the Super-G leg of first Super-Combined.

in the start gate

in the start gate

Kelly and Charlotte were presented with these glass engraved medals in recognition of their 3rd overall titles on the Europa Cup circuit.

Kelly and Charlotte 3rd Overall in Europe

Kelly and Charlotte 3rd Overall in Europe

The girls came 2nd in Giant Slalom today and are pleased with this season’s performance. They’re enjoying these last few races, with Kelly’s Mum, Margaret coming along to support the girls in their last races and Kelley and Debbie observing from SINI.

The girls will compete in five more races this weekend to finish the season, 2 Super-G, 2 Super-Combined and one more slalom.

British Disabled "ladies" Ski Team

Charlotte, Kelly, Coach Kiwi Jane, Anna

A Special St. Patrick’s Day for Kelly and Charlotte, SINI and Mummy Gallagher

Support from Sports Institute Northern Ireland helping Kelly and Charlotte in 2011

Kelley Fay - Sports psych, Charlotte & Kelly, Debbie Hanna - Performance Co-ordinator

Kelly and Charlotte won their first gold medal in slalom today. Kelly spoke to the Sports Institute Northern Ireland after their win Read the SINI press release,  SINI Press Release – Kelly and Charlotte win Slalom Gold

Kelly & Charlotte 1st in slalom at Europa Cup Finals

Kelly & Charlotte 1st in slalom at Europa Cup Finals

“After Our first speed races at the Austrian National Championships in St. Lambrecht, we’ve travelled over to Stubai for a weeks’ slalom training. The weather is spring like, we’ve been stripping down to jumpers, eating lunch at the start gate and generally enjoying the sunshine and peace of our very own training slope! Thanks to the Combined Services Dsiabled Ski Team’s good relationship and contacts in Stubai we’ve been enjoying staying at “Howie’s” and having our very own piste to train on. Its such a good set up.

Improving technique in Stubai - March 2011

Improving technique in Stubai - March 2011

Charlotte and I have been improving on our technique from World Championships in preparation for Europa Cup Finals. I’m trying to get my knees across the gates an Charlotte is adjusting to the change in racing line that the improved technique produces.

Some runs are better than others and so we’re enjoying laughing at the gates smacking me in the face when I mess up.

Looking forward to the next races in Spain but not too excited for the long drive through France to get there.”

Kelly and Charlotte have returned from a break after World Championships to train and compete in St. Lambrecht, Austria.

Scheduled races included Slalom, Giant Slalom, and Super-Combined. These races were the first time for the girls to concentrate on Super-G and Super-Combined.

On Friday, the Super-Combined was postponed due to safety concerns surrounding spill zones, B-netting and lack of snow. The Giant Slalom went ahead as planned on Saturday in which Kelly failed to complete the first run after ploughing into gate 6. The girls spent the afternoon supporting their teammates who qualified for the second run in which youth development athlete James Whitley put in a fantastic performance qualifying under 200 points in technical events, which is a great achievement in his first IPCAS race.

On Sunday, the Slalom was canceled in favour of running the postponed Super-Combined.

The Girls came back to compete in their first speed event. They completed the Super-G component coming 2nd, just over 2 seconds behind, Russia’s Alexandra Fratseva. Their run was not as good as training during the week and so the girls were hoping to put down a strong slalom run in the afternoon. Kelly slid in at the last hairpin, which knocked the girls out of medal contention, however Charlotte encouraged her to hike and so the girls completed to finish 5th.

The Super-G component of the Super-Combined where the girls achieved 2nd has meant the girls are qualified for Europa Cup Speed next season and so Both girls and Coach are pleased with the overall performance.

The reduced BDST is now training in Stubai, Austria before driving to Spain for Europa Cup Finals and postponed Super Combined races around St. Patrick’s Day.

Many thanks to Sean Power for use of these photos

2nd Super-G St Lambrecht 6th March 2011 austrian championships

2nd Super-G St Lambrecht 6th March 2011 austrian championships

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