Updated: Saturday, 21st July 2018 @ 8:06am

'Dancing in the start gate': Golden Fitzpatrick becomes GB's most decorated Winter Paralympian of all time

'Dancing in the start gate': Golden Fitzpatrick becomes GB's most decorated Winter Paralympian of all time

| By Ross Lawson in PyeongChang

Menna Fitzpatrick started her final day in South Korea with a boot falling on her head – she ended it not only a gold medallist but Britain’s most decorated Winter Paralympian of all time.

If adversity followed by triumph sounds familiar then so it should. This, after all, is what Fitzpatrick’s Games have been all about.

“I think I’m going to have to push her over more often because she comes back from these things brilliantly,” quipped guide Jennifer Kehoe.

Starting the week with a crash in the downhill meant just finishing a race was the main aim to avoid a total nightmare.

One gold, two silvers and one bronze medal later, the closing ceremony flagbearer has done all that and more with Kehoe.

Gold was all that was missing from her Winter Games collection heading into the final day but, with one final slalom push, a 19-year-old that had begun a teary day consumed by emotion and nerves had nothing to worry about after all.

“I can’t believe it, the whole journey has been really long, with quite a few ups and downs along the way but it’s just amazing to be where we are now,” said Fitzpatrick, who eclipsed Jade Etherington’s tally of four skiing medals from Sochi 2014.

“I don’t think what’s happened this week will ever sink in, it was amazing to finish the second race and to win that bronze, my confidence was boosted so high.

“Then this morning a ski boot fell off one of the racks on the bus and hit me on the head, and we weren’t able to inspect the lines how we wanted to.

“Without that I felt more nervous, I didn’t know the course as much as I hoped but Jen went through it with me so many times to make sure we had it.

“I was exhausted after this whole period of racing, the nerves and the emotion were just overwhelming so that didn’t make for a great start.

“We just went out there and did our own thing and looked at the achievements each time they came.”

In Slovakian Henrieta Farkasova, Fitzpatrick and Kehoe had their work cut out to reach the top of the podium against a skier who had taken gold in every women’s visually impaired race so far.

By the halfway stage the Brits had a third silver all but locked to their names, momentarily dropping into bronze in their second run before finding the rocket they so desperately craved.

Still came the agony of waiting for Farkasova to come down and try and beat their combined time of 1:51.80, with teammates Millie Knight and Brett Wild back in bronze for ParalympicsGB’s seventh medal.

By more than half a second the Slovakian fell short, a result Fitzpatrick – who has less than five per cent vision – couldn’t see on screen. But the teenager didn’t need telling.

“Our main aim was to just go and have fun and try and beat our previous time, however well Farkasova can ski, that’s something that’s out of our control and we just tried to ski as well as we can,” she added.

“We fought the whole way down, Jen just told me to go from halfway down so we did.
“Jen didn’t have to say anything – she just jumped on me. She just gave me the biggest hug she’s had in her life and no words were needed.”

Thinking about butterflies, roaring like a lion and singing Lady Gaga – Fitzpatrick’s techniques from this week alone are not something you’ll find in the textbook of race preparation.

But with nerves at their highest the teenager couldn’t resist one last bit of start-gate fun to round off a week she won’t forget.

“We’ve sung Disney and done so many different things but this time the first song I could think of was ‘I like big butts’ (Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Baby Got Back),” she added.

“It made me feel a lot better and it seemed to work. We may have been dancing in the start gate – but we just needed something to make me giggle and it worked.”

Sainsbury’s is a proud long-term supporter of the British Paralympic Association and a champion of inclusive sport for all. For more information on Sainsbury’s commitment to inclusive sport visit http://www.j-sainsbury.co.uk/