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.