What’s your usual diet like while training during the off-season? 

“We normally get around 3-4 weeks of relative down time at the end of a season. Normally April time. This is when I am more relaxed about the types of foods I eat. Still pretty balanced I would say, as once I’m so used to eating healthier foods, it’s hard to crave things like a take away as they make me feel rubbish. I’m more likely to go for pancakes or waffles after a dog walk or something.”

What’s your favourite quick and easy healthy meal/snack? 

“Nothing beats a peanut butter and banana smoothie after a tough training session.”

 What’s your typical workout routine in the off-season?

“I always go back to my local athletics club and CrossFit gym in the off season. It’s a great way to train in my local community and for the fun of it. My favourite type of off-season training is turning up to the gym without any plan and just doing what I feel like or what’s on the board. As normally our training is so heavily structured.”

What’s your favourite exercise and why? 

“Running. I love the freedom and social element to it.”

Any tips for someone wanting to get active this summer? 

“Get outside! Rain, hail or shine, it’s never as bad as it seems once you’re outside.  The hardest part about getting active is taking that first step outside your front door.”

Paralympic medallists Menna Fitzpatrick, Millie Knight and Kelly Gallagher joined by seven new athletes in 22 person Para Snowsport squad for 2021/22 season

Britain’s World Class Para Snowsport squad for the 2021/22 season has been confirmed today by GB Snowsport with Paralympic legends and experienced world-class athletes joined by a host of new talent in the nation’s largest ever World Class Programme squad for Para Snowsports.

Paralympic medallists Menna Fitzpatrick, Kelly Gallagher, Millie Knight and World Cup Winner Neil Simpson are joined by new selections Shona Brownlee and Dan Sheen in the Para Alpine squad alongside invitational athlete, Alex Slegg, with all three new selections competing in sit ski disciplines – making this season the first time that GB will have sit ski representatives since the Para Snowsport programme was taken over by GB Snowsport. Three new Para Alpine guides join the squad ranks for the first time, with Lachlan Veitch, Adam Hall and Katie Guest joining returning names in Gary Smith, Brett Wild and Andrew Simpson.

The Para Nordic squad remains unchanged from the 2020/21 season with Scott Meenagh, Callum Deboys, Steve Arnold and Steve Thomas all selected to represent the Great Britain in the year ahead.

In Para Snowboard, talent transfer Jon-Allan Butterworth is named in the Para Snowboarding squad, having announced his retirement from Para Cycling in January, where he will compete alongside James Barnes-Miller, Owen Pick, Andy Macleod and Ollie Hill, who joins up with the squad for the first time.

Pat Sharples, GB Snowsport Head Coach, said:

“We’re delighted to be able to announce such a strong Para Snowsport squad to represent Britain in the coming season – the biggest ever Para Snowsport World Class Programme in the nation’s history. Having so much Paralympic experience in the ranks is a huge benefit to the whole squad and we’re excited by what we will be able to achieve over the next twelve months.

“Across the world, the competitiveness of Para Snowsport is growing every year, and with this squad we believe Britain can hold its own in the biggest competitions.”

Menna Fitzpatrick, four-time Paralympic medallist and member of the Para Alpine squad, said:

“I’m really looking forward to getting underway with the new season. We’ve got a great team this year, and after a frustrating year for all of us in 2020/21 we’re all really looking forward to getting back out on the slopes, putting in some big results and focusing in on the Paralympic Winter Games in March.”

Para Alpine

Shona Brownlee*, Menna Fitzpatrick, Kelly Gallagher, Millie Knight, Dan Sheen*, Neil Simpson, Alex Slegg**

Para Alpine Guides

Katie Guest*, Adam Hall*, Andrew Simpson, Gary Smith, Lachlan Veitch*, Brett Wild

Para Nordic

Steve Arnold, Callum Deboys, Scott Meenagh, Steve Thomas

Para Snowboard

James Barnes-Miller, Jon-Allan Butterworth*, Ollie Hill*, Andy Macleod, Owen Pick

* denotes newly selected athletes

** denotes invitational athlete

Like millions of people around the world, I can’t wait for the start of the Paralympics.

What it represents – elite sport of the absolute highest levels, and the chance for athletes to make a name for themselves that will go down in history – is unmatched in anywhere except for a few sports.

For an athlete, the Paralympic Games really are the pinnacle.

Where I suppose I’m different from a lot of people looking forward to the start of the Paralympics, though, is that I’m really looking forward to two Paralympics. First, as a spectator, the Tokyo Games and second, as an athlete and assuming the next few months go to plan, the Beijing Games next year.

Assuming I do get there, Beijing won’t be my first experience of the Paralympics.

In 2018 I returned home with a gold, two silvers and a bronze medal from the PyeongChang Games, and I can still remember everything about the athlete experience, so I can give a pretty good guess at how the team are feeling now they’re out there and waiting for the Opening Ceremony to begin. Probably some nervousness, some excitement and a lot of focus as their individual competitions come onto the horizon.

For me, I’m looking forward to getting to sit back and enjoy the next couple of weeks as a fan.

The past 18 months has been incredibly difficult for disabled people, and the Paralympics – both the coming Summer Games and the imminent Winter Games – are an important reminder that disability needn’t be a barrier to success in any field, least of all sport.

Across para-sport, there’s a real community, with athletes, coaches and team members working and celebrating together, even when we’re competing against one another. With that community comes a whole lot of support, so I’m sure that most Winter Paralympic hopefuls will, like me, be taking every opportunity to see how our summer counterparts are getting on, even as we’re preparing for a hard winter of training and competition.

There’s an exciting fortnight ahead – it’ll be worth tuning in for.

Menna Fitzpatrick is a Para Alpine athlete and Great Britain’s most decorated Winter Paralympian, having won one gold, two silver and a bronze medal at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang.

With 12 years’ worth of coaching experience, GB Snowsport Para Nordic coach Kieran Jones ensures the athletes are always striving to progress, even during a restricted season.

How and why did you get into coaching?

“Following an undergrad degree where I enjoyed Nordic ski racing personally, I realized that my personal motivation had a lot less to do with my own personal achievements, and had a lot more to do with whatever group or team I was a part of could achieve. I began volunteer coaching in 2009 with the ski club in Ottawa, Canada, that I grew up skiing for, and was fortunate that a year later they were able to offer me a part-time role working with athletes 14-18 years old. It immediately was clear to me that coaching Nordic skiing was rewarding and challenging, and I’ve never looked back.”

What are your main responsibilities as a coach?

“Within the Para Nordic programme, as it is decentralised, my main responsibilities are the coordination and communication of the various elements of the programme, and leading camps and competitions. I work very closely with Simon Allanson, Lead Coach and Biathlon Coach, and he and I coordinate the teams’ activities with our Sports Science and Sports Medicine team.

“Every season our first step with athletes is to set out season objectives, and the athletes and coaches work together to build a plan on how we best feel we want to achieve it. Everything we do flows from that point. We work with a physiologist to write training programs, physiotherapists support athlete health, nutritionists deliver cutting-edge education, our technology partners develop equipment.

“Due to the technical and environmental requirements of the sport, and the difficulty of finding locations that have everything we need for training, our programme is approximately 2 weeks on camp or at competition a month from June to March. This means a high variety of training locations, logistics, and coordination of various resources to make camps highly impactful for athletes. Fortunately, on the logistics front, our Para Programme Manager is outstanding and makes our lives as coaches easier.”

How important is the mental/psychological side of coaching in a modern athlete’s development?

“In my experience, understanding an athlete’s mentality is crucial to being able to help an athlete develop. ‘Natural’ talent is great, but it will only take you so far. To be clear, I’m not talking specifically about mental skill development and engaging psychologists and mental health professionals – although that is quite important. Understanding the needs’ of athletes, what their understanding of the sport and training is, and developing effective paths of communication underpin all improvement and planning for athletes.”

How is the new generation of athletes’ expectations of coaching different from what was expected 10 years ago?

“The primary change in athlete expectations is down to the availability of information, and influence of the internet. The internet has been massively helpful in coach development, due to increasing access to information. However, it’s now easier than ever to get more information than ever; and verifying its accuracy and relevance for the age and stage that an athlete is at can be difficult.

“An athlete can easily find endless amounts of drills, activities, technology, or nutrition advice within seconds, packaged and produced in a way that makes it seem it is the best or the only way to achieve success. While 10 years ago that information existed, it was less prevalent.

“As a result, as the primary contact for athletes, 10 years ago as a coach you needed to have knowledge a mile wide, and an inch deep, with the exception being your speciality (perhaps technique, physiology, nutrition, whatever). Now, as a coach in order to help athletes navigate this world of instant resources, you need to be well-informed and up to date on much more specific information, or if you don’t have that knowledge, have the ability to connect an athlete with the specific expert who does have the knowledge.

“One other piece that has changed massively is awareness and openness around mental health, and the role it plays in athletes lives and ability to be successful. Athletes rightly expect their coach to be part of a positive, healthy, supportive culture and to make that a priority, not just develop pacing strategies, write out training sessions, or provide technical cues.”

Is analysing competition/training footage useful for athlete improvement and development? If so, has tech like mobile phones and drones made this easier?

“Video footage from competition and training is a really valuable tool, especially when matched with athletes’ personal observations. In Para Nordic skiing, given the current popularity and structure of the sport, we rarely have full video of events. Being able to show athletes what they actually look like versus what they see in their minds’ eye provides a massive opportunity for technical improvement, and facilitates trial and error and feedback coaching loops.

“However, it also has to be matched with good athlete feedback. An external coaching perception of what is happening is one perspective, but the athlete is the one living the experience, and the only one who truly knows what it feels like, especially in adaptive sport. As a coach of Para Nordic skiing, I’m never going to be able to exactly replicate and feel the skiing style of a double-amputee, so asking good questions and understanding athletes own body perceptions is key.”

What was the biggest challenge coaching athletes during the most restricted moments last year? How did you manage to maintain a coaching approach with athletes during lockdown?

“For our program, we had two major challenges during lockdown. The first was the uncertainty of our ability to travel to train. With no clear timelines on when we could travel, and a constantly shifting landscape about where we could travel, it made it almost impossible to communicate clear, direct, and solid plans for our camp-based programme. As coaches, it was frustrating because instead of one or two season plans, we were very quickly on to plan ten. For athletes, it was frustrating because of the constantly shifting information, and the short time-scales for changes we were often working to.

“The second big challenge was access to appropriate training and racing. With Nordic ski racing not available in the UK, we depend on travel abroad to get conditions and competition. At one point the entire World Cup season had been cancelled, which meant we needed to get creative to find opportunities for our athletes to compete. Competition is the ultimate test, to find out whether the training, tactics, equipment, and adjustments you have made over the course of the 8-month training season have had the impact you thought.

“In terms of coaching approach, it led us as coaches to value communication with the athletes even more. Without having the ability to consistently know we were going to see athletes in person every two weeks, we used technology to help fill the gap, and improved athletes home environments. Athletes were able to explore their own back yards in ways that they had never done before, as they hadn’t needed to – from constructing home gyms in gardens, to doing technique sessions via video link, to finding new roads for rides close to home, we were able to make the situation overwhelmingly positive from a training perspective. As coaches, we were able to drive home the point that good training, good habits, and execution of the small things are what drive improvement, not just the larger, flashier events and camps. Athletes showed marked improvement across all areas of development, and once we were able to get on snow and compete, turned in career-best performances.”

You can follow Kieran on Twitter here.

My best party trick is… “Being able to wiggle each ear independently.”

The geekiest thing about me is… “My love for cooking.”

A shower thought I had recently… “When you say ‘Forward’ or ‘Back’, your lips move in those directions.”

My best dance move is… “The floss.”

When I’m not training or on snow you’ll find me… “Eating food or talking about food or thinking about food.”

Guilty pleasure… “Sweet and salt popcorn.”

Best travel story… “Travelling over to Ireland on the motorbikes with my dad to camp for the weekend and watch the North West 200 which is a Irish Road Race.”

Biggest fail… “Would have to be crashing my motorbike and loosing a leg but in hindsight it was a bit of a blessing.”

Typical Sunday… “Sundays are my relaxation day so I usually have a long lie in and watch movies or television series with my girlfriend, eating food and drinking coffee!”

Weirdest gift I have given or received… “The weirdest gift I have given was a sexy Santa Christmas tree ornament.” 

Two truths and a lie… “I used to work as a chef, I failed my motorcycle test first time…”

I won’t shut up about… “Cooking and food!”

The pandemic has taught me… “To be grateful for things we already have and to stay humble.”

Being announced as ParalympicsGB Chef de Mission for the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games in 2020 was a huge honour and the opportunity to work more closely with the brilliant athletes and staff at GB Snowsport is something that I can’t wait for. As Head of Sport at the BPA I already work closely with each National Governing Body across many areas of Games planning but for me to have the chance to lead the team is a dream come true.

I’ve been lucky enough to attend five Paralympic Games in my career with the BPA and some of my fondest memories come from the Winter Games in Sochi and PyeongChang.  Sochi was ground-breaking in so many ways with Jade Etherington and Caroline Powell becoming our most decorated Winter Paralympians, Kelly Gallagher and Charlotte Evans winning Great Britain’s first ever gold medal on snow and the hours of coverage on Channel 4. The ParalympicsGB team continued to be front page news in PyeongChang with record breaking performances from Menna Fitzpatrick and Jen Kehoe (including that incredible gold medal on the final morning of the Games), Scott Meenagh becoming our first Nordic Skiing athlete for 20 years and the selection of our first ever Snowboard athletes.

From a personal perspective, being one of the first people to speak to Kelly and Charlotte at the bottom of the slope after their gold medal run and getting the village cleaners to join in the celebrations in our apartment after Menna and Jen’s victory are moments that will stay with me forever. It is memories such as those along with the prospect of working with the exciting group of athletes we have aiming for selection in 2022 that makes me so excited to be Chef for the team in Beijing and I am determined to ensure that we continue to build on the momentum from the last two Games and help to make Great Britain a force to be reckoned with in Winter Para sport. We will take a team to Beijing that has extraordinary potential and I can’t wait to see what can be achieved by this group of athletes.

Beijing promises to be another magnificent Games – potentially the biggest ever in terms of athlete numbers – with more slots available than ever before for female athletes and gender parity in the number of medals available. The Games will be held across three competition zones with GB Snowsport athletes competing in Yanqing (Alpine Skiing) and Zhangjiakou (Nordic Skiing and Snowboarding). As Chef de Mission it’s my job (along with my brilliant team) to ensure that we create environments across all three villages that allow athletes and staff to thrive and produce personal best performances. We will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that we work with GB Snowsport staff and athletes over the next 365 days to make this the best prepared ParalympicsGB team ever to attend a Winter Games.

The current unique situation we all face with Covid-19 and the postponement of the Summer Games in Tokyo means that we will need to work harder than ever to ensure that we are ready for Beijing but we have spent the last six months at the BPA planning how we will deliver two Games within six months and that work will continue as we understand what Beijing will look like and any specific plans we need to put in place.

I know that representing ParalympicsGB is a burning ambition for all the GB Snowsport athletes, whether pulling on the tracksuit for the first time or if you’ve been to multiple Games and I look forward to being part of the athletes journey as we head towards Beijing 2022.

By Scott Meenagh, GB Snowsport Para Nordic Skier

I was introduced to the world of Para Nordic Skiing when spectating at the Sochi Winter Paralympic Games in 2014 where I was inspired by the skill and physicality of the Para Nordic skiers. I also loved the excitement of the racing. When I returned, I decided to turn my attention and focus to getting involved.

I love it that there’s a variety of physical and mental skills required to be successful in our sport. You need high levels of physical fitness as well as technical skiing skill and the ability to make good decisions under pressure, often at high speed. I also love the camaraderie between nations as we travel around the World Cup circuit and the incredible places we get to train and race around the world. No two days ever feel the same.

In terms of getting in the zone before events, I have found that the more relaxed I can be the better. I don’t get too pumped up before racing. I enjoy some good chat and a laugh with my teammates (and competitors) and keeping things nice and relaxed until it’s time to switch my focus. Normally once I’m on snow my focus begins to narrow.

The toughest athlete I’ve met is Oksana Masters from the USA, she inspires me every day. Her desire to win is like I’ve never seen. She is a true champion and I feel privileged to have witnessed some of her best recent performances. She is also a fantastic person off the snow and has a passion for helping others around her grow.

My favourite moment on snow has to be the 2018 World Championships, on final day I came 6th in the 15km Cross country race. The feeling when I was racing was so special. It was one of those days where everything fell into place. I felt brilliant throughout the race and the elation when I crossed the line knowing I’d given my very best that day was so special.

I would really encourage anyone interested in skiing to just get involved! Our sport is fantastic for competition but it’s also an amazing lifestyle sport and something that once you’ve tried it once, you’ll want to do forever. Remember to recognise the power of the journey and don’t too caught up focusing on results and end goals. The lessons you learn on the way are the most important.

Follow Scott

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By Steve Arnold, Para Nordic Athlete

Film

“I’m not really one for films as I’m more into box sets but there are a few films I always go back to: Snatch, Topgun, Notting Hill, all of the Rambos and Rockies – plus Elf which is a must at Christmas.” 

Book 

“I don’t really read many books but over lockdown I started getting into audiobooks with the focus of educating myself on sports recovery and how to be a better athlete. The last couple of books have been PEAK by Dr. Marc Bubbs and Good to Go by Christie Aschwanden. I find them good to listen to on long steady sessions or just when there’s some down time in the training. It’s definitely helped to up my learning game.” 

Song 

“I’ll pretty much listen to any genre of music and it definitely depends on what session I’ve got to what I put on the playlist. If I’m on a 2-3hr steady roller ski, I like to have more chilled tunes on like Eric Clapton, The Eagles, James Blunt. I’ve even been known to bang on the odd Disney soundtrack now and then as it also helps me stay in zone and not get carried away, which is easy to do when a song with a beat kicks in. 

In the gym recently it’s been Hip-Hop Rap mostly NWA or Dr Dre, The Chronic album and on my sprint/interval session anything with a beat goes. One of my favourites is David Guetta ‘just one last time’ as there’s a line in it that says ‘even though it hurts I can’t slow down’ which is very apt when your max out on a sprint or hills session.” 

Person

“Although there are many inspiring people out there, I get my inspiration from my family and friends. My daughter for instance – she is 2 years old and seeing her grow up and starting to become an incredible human inspires me to show her that the world can be tough but it can also be incredible no matter what it throws at you. I also have some amazing friends that have been as low as you can probably get, but over the years they have got their life back on track and done some incredible (if not a little crazy expeditions) to help themselves and others. To me, that is inspirational.”  

Place 

“My favourite place is Fiji. I was lucky enough to go there a few years back with my wife and we will go back again one day. The people are so friendly the place is just paradise and when you’re on your down time from work or sport ‘Fiji Time’ is definitely the way to live your life.”

Follow Steve

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