8 Mar 2014

Sochi Paralympics: Jade Etherington wins skiing silver

Visually impaired downhill skier Jade Etherington wins Britain’s first Paralympic medal at Sochi 2014, and the first on snow in 20 years.

Jade Etherington (Getty)

Etherington, and her guide Caroline Powell, claimed silver on only their third competitive downhill run together, having met less than a year ago. They are the first ever British women to win a Paralympic skiing medal.

The success has got ParalympicsGB off to a strong start at the Sochi games, which opened on Friday.

Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted his congratulations to the athlete, saying he was “proud” of the 22-year-old Lincoln athlete.

Etherington crossed the line on the downhill run in one minute, 34.28 seconds – 2.73 seconds behind gold medallist Henrieta Farkasova of Slovakia. Russian Aleksandra Frantceva came in third.

The British athlete crashed as she crossed the line, but was unhurt. “I was so happy I’d finished and then couldn’t stop I was going that fast,” she said.

Jade Etherington and Caroline Powell (picture: Getty)

Above (l-r): Jade Etherington and Caroline Powell

Powell, 19, added: “It’s basically a friendship so you have to build a friendship and that can take years. In our case we had to build it within a short space of time, but we were really honest with each other from the beginning.

“She taught me so much about guiding, I just went with what she said and it’s worked. It’s come together now and we’re so happy.”

Strength to strength

Etherington was born with Axenfield’s syndrome, a genetic condition that causes fluid blockages in the eye and can lead to total blindness. She had six eye operations before the age of 12 and began to lose her sight aged 17. She now has less than five percent vision in each eye.

Her mother, who is blind, was born with the condition which was passed on genetically to her four daughters,who are all affected in some form.

Etherington first tried skiing when she was eight years old and realised she had a talent for it. She was determined not to let her loss of sight get in the way of her love of the sport – and in 2009 she eventually joined the British Disabled Ski Team development squad.

Since then she has gone from strength to strength.

At the 2013 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships in La Molina, Spain, Jade took bronze in the Super-G and won silver in the Super-G at the Paralympic Test Event in Sochi. The Lincoln girl has also won Europea Cup and World Cup medals this season, along with guide Caroline Powell, who is with her in Sochi.

Etherington”s 23rd birthday is on March the 9th and the Lincoln girl will be hoping to celebrate it with at least one medal from the four events she will be competing in at Sochi.

She is still to compete in the Super-G, Slalom and Giant Slalom.