Golden girl Kelly Gallagher home to a hero’s welcome

Kelly Gallagher, winner of Britain's first ever Winter Paralympic Gold, returns home to Belfast with her mum Margaret.
Kelly Gallagher, winner of Britain's first ever Winter Paralympic Gold, returns home to Belfast with her mum Margaret.

Paralympian golden girl Kelly Gallagher has arrived back in Belfast from the Sochi winter games to a hero’s welcome.

Visually impaired Kelly, from Bangor, Co Down, won the super-G event along with her guide Charlotte Evans – becoming the first-ever British athletes to win a Winter Paralympic gold medal.

“I have had family come down from Donegal, from Sligo, from Leitrim and Mayo and they’ve all just come to the airport to say hello so I’m just over the moon,” said Kelly.

“They have all been so helpful and supportive over the last four years, so we can all celebrate together as it feels like I should be celebrating with everyone.

“I have had loads of injuries and have been trying to get over those injuries, but it’s just crazy the amount of support I have had and now I get to come home and share it with everyone.

“I think maybe in the next couple of weeks it will start to sink in. It’s been an amazing feeling. The coverage that we’re getting for Paralympic sport, winter sport and for women’s sport is brilliant.”

Commenting on whether she was likely to sit back and enjoy the success or get back into training immediately, Kelly said: “Racing is in my blood and you get that rush from racing – I don’t know where else to get it so I guess I’ll have to get back to racing.

“It won’t be full-time at the moment but I’m excited to be home and the World Championships are still on the cards in Canada next January.”

The Sochi gold medal is unlikely to be Kelly’s last major honour.

“Charlotte really enjoys it, and we work really well together, so we have no plans to be retiring from each other. Our job is just to go out there and ski race, then we review the race and then we train to be better. We are always striving for greatness and that’s what I’ve been training to do here in Northern Ireland.”

The 28-year-old golden girl said she was also looking forward to getting back to her job with the Civil Service.

“I’m excited to go back but I’m not sure how useful I’ll be after three concussions,” she joked.

Earlier this week Kelly and the Team GB skiers were praised by the Prime Minister at a Downing Street reception. David Cameron said their success ensured they would make the team for the 2018 Games.

Alongside Kelly and Charlotte Evans, Jade Etherington and her guide Caroline Powell claimed three silvers and a bronze.

“This was our best haul since 1984, we hit our medal targets – well done, very good – you can keep your jobs,” he said.

Kelly said she was grateful for the continued funding from Sport NI.

“I can’t fault the support I’ve had from here at home, it’s been amazing,” she added.