Paralympic skiers to get fund boost
6:47am Monday 17th March 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Great Britain's Paralympic skiers are in line for a funding boost after their historic success in Sochi, but even that might not be enough to persuade four-time medallist Jade Etherington to continue competing.
Etherington, who is visually impaired, and guide Caroline Powell became the first Britons to win four medals at a single Winter Paralympics.
The 23-year-old, who was laid low by illness on Saturday night, was well enough to celebrate that achievement by carrying the flag at the closing ceremony of the Games at the Fisht Stadium the following evening.
The Lincoln athlete's four medals, three silvers and a bronze, added to the first ever Winter Paralympic gold won by Kelly Gallagher and Charlotte Evans as Britain smashed their UK Sport target of at least two medals.
Chief executive Liz Nicholl said the skiers should be "very optimistic" of increased financial backing when the funding reviews are carried out.
Nicholl said: "If I were them I would be very optimistic about future investment, because they have shown that they can do it.
"They have delivered fantastically. So we will go into these reviews being very confident that this is a programme that knows how to identify the talent and knows how to support the talent."
It remains to be seen, though, whether Etherington will stay in the sport to benefit from that support.
The trainee geography teacher, who said she was "tremendously privileged" to carry the flag, warned that it might take more than more funding to convince her to continue, with the programmes run by Disability Snowsport UK also needing to match her ambitions.
She said: "It has been such a hard journey. You sacrifice so much, your family, you friends.
"You put in a lot of time and money and when you are VI (visually-impaired) you have to put in money for your guide, you have to build up the relationship and, emotionally, without all the other skiing, you have to work with someone and find that great bond.
"It is great we have found that. Four years is a lot to ask of someone for all that commitment and time and training.
"If the sport changed and you got a lot more support for the team and you have better programmes then who knows, I might carry on."
The governing body would be wise to do all it can to persuade her to continue, with Etherington, at just 23, in line to play a major role in a bright future for Winter Paralympic sport in Britain.
The six medals won in total in Sochi, the wheelchair curling team adding the final one, came from a team of just 15, including guides, and placed Britain to 10th in the medal table.