Among the greatest sports competitions in the world, the Olympics hold precedence as the greatest gathering of competitive athletes from around the planet. Millions upon millions of people globally tune in on their televisions, phones, or radios to keep track of the biennial competition. However, the Winter Olympics is not the only major competition happening this year. The Paralympics occur about a month after the normal Olympics, but are no less important. If anything, they are even more impressive as the athletes competing in the competitions have to overcome massive amounts of disadvantages ranging from lost limbs to blindness. From March 9th – 18th, an even more diverse cast of athletes than the “normal” Olympians will compete in the 2018 Paralympics. Kelly Gallagher, a blind skier, is one of those athletes.
Born on May 15, 1985, Kelly Gallagher first discovered skiing when given a Barbie Ski doll as a present. Soon after that, she convinced her father to take her alpine skiing. Unfortunately, because of the lack of media noise made about the Paralympic Team, not many people have gone into the early lives of athletes who compete in the Paralympics. Thus, Gallagher’s early life is not very well known.
Because her oculocutaneous albinism limits her field of vision to almost nothing, Gallagher skis with a guide to direct her as she goes down a slope. Despite this disability, Gallagher is one of the best skiers on the British Paralympic team. In 2008, the British Disability Ski Team (BDST) Development Squad accepted Gallagher into her ranks, sending her on a path towards Paralympic success. The Squad helps to train future Paralympic athletes in their various disciplines.
After training with the Squad for a while, Gallagher officially joined the BDST and began competing in world events and competitions. Skiing with guide Claire Robb in 2009, Gallagher entered the New Zealand Winter Games (not associated with the Olympic Winter Games or Paralympic Winter Games). At the Winter Games, Gallagher shined, taking gold in the Giant Slalom, her first international race. This served as only a hint of things to come.
With her first appearance in the 2010 Vancouver Paralympics, Gallagher became the first athlete from Northern Ireland to compete in such an event. Her first Paralympics ended in a slightly disappointing manner. Competing in the giant and normal slaloms, Gallagher placed 4th and 6th respectively. However, even without placing, she still placed the highest of all British athletes and did do strongly at the 2010 Paralympics as 4th place is nothing to sneeze at when debuting in a Paralympic event.
After the 2010 Paralympics, Gallagher suffered a shattered jaw during a training session after crashing into a rope. However, she bounced back from it, consulting a sports therapist and worked her way into the 2011 Para Alpine Skiing Championships. At the competition that took place in Italy that year, Gallagher took bronze in the giant slalom and silver in the regular slalom.
Two years later, Gallagher again had to take time off due to health reasons, this time a hip surgery. Even with that setback in June of 2013, Gallagher entered the 2013 Para Alpine Skiing Championships. This time, she took medals in four events: bronze in the Downhill and Giant Slalom as well as silver in both the Super-G and the Combined Slalom events. A combined slalom event consists of a downhill race followed by two slalom runs. The times from all three are combined to find out the winners of the event.
Up to this point, Gallagher had still never tasted gold in any major ski competition. That all changed when she appeared in the 2014 Sochi Paralympics. After placing sixth in the downhill, her time in the Super-G turned out to be the best and Gallagher took gold. That medal happened to be the first British gold in Paralympic history.
Even though she is legally blind and has suffered more than a few injuries in her career, Kelly Gallagher is still able to fly down a mountain at more than 60 miles per hour. While it is always amazing to watch the Olympics and see all the amazing athletes, the Paralympic athletes are arguably even more impressive as they fly under the radar as well as deal with various disabilities in their pursuit of athletic glory. While Christians should not pursue worldly glory, a human temptation is wanting to be in the spotlight. Sometimes, the greatest accomplishments are those that are done under the radar without much glory at all.