Sir Steve Redgrave has got a lot to answer for. Having inspired a new generation of British rowers to continue his golden quest for medals in a boat, he is also the man who sent one Welsh athlete’s career careering downhill . . . fast!
Not that you will hear any complaints about that from Wales’ latest major medalist, Menna Fitzpatrick. The teenage skier won a silver medal in the women’s visually impaired super-combined which comes after she won bronze in the Super-G a couple of days ago.
It means two medals in as many days for the Welsh woman at the 2018 Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang.
The Macclesfield-based Fitzpatrick, who became the first British snow sports athlete to win a World Cup title when she won in Aspen, Colorado in 2016, joined her guide Jennifer Kehoe in twice getting on the podium in South Korea. Now they have two more shots at glory this week in the Slalom and Giant Slalom.
Given Fitzpatrick only has 5% vision, and communicates with Kehoe via Bluetooth headsets while travelling at up to 70mph downhill, it is a remarkable achievement. Kehoe also wears an orange bib for easier recognition on the slopes.
Fitzpatrick’s love of skiing first began when she was 13. Her quest for a Paralympic gold medal began in the same year after she met Redgrave.
“I’ve been dreaming of this moment ever since I started ski racing,” said Fitzpatrick after receiving her medal. When I was 13 I met Steve Redgrave and was allowed to hold one of his Olympic gold medals.
“Ever since then I’ve always said ‘I want my own’. Now it has got to the stage that I’ve got a chance of doing that.
“It has been an emotional last 24 hours and I don’t think I have ever cried so much while skiing. It was one of my big dreams to win a Paralympic medal and I am so proud and excited for the rest of the week.”
Both Fitzpatrick and Kehoe have had to battle back from injuries to get to this point. Kehoe had the bitter disappointment of missing out on partnering a British athlete at the 2014 Paralympics when she ruptured an ACL in her knee, while Fitzpatrick broke her hand in a fall last year.
Not that any of those injuries knocked them off their course to glory in Pyeongchang. Three years on from striking up their partnership they won medals in their first four World Cup races of the season to clinch selection.
After falling on the first bend of Saturday’s downhill, Fitzpatrick and Kehoe had a point to prove and they did it in style, holding off the challenge of Belgium’s Eleonor Sana and her sister Chloe for their first Paralympic medal.
It meant double success for Team GB with Millie Knight and Brett Wild claiming their second silver medals of the Games after finishing second in the downhill.