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From despair to a landmark golden high

GREAT BRITAIN'S first Winter Paralympics gold medal winner, Kelly Gallagher, insisted she had her guide Charlotte Evans to thank for raising her from the depths of despair to the heights of Super G glory.

Great Britain's Kelly Gallagher, right, and her guide Charlotte Evans on their way to victory in the visually impaired Super G at the Winter Paralympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.

Finishing dead last in her opening downhill event at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre on Saturday left the 28-year-old from Northern Ireland doubting all she and Evans had achieved in their four years skiing together.

However, some words of wisdom from her 22-year-old guide, who put her university studies on hold to be in Sochi, helped Gallagher refocus and record a time of 1minute 28.72seconds that the rest of the field could not surpass.

In the same visually impaired race, her fellow Briton, Jade Etherington, from Lincoln, and guide Caroline Powell added bronze to the silver they had won in the downhill on Saturday. On a fine third day of action in Sochi, Great ­Britain's all-Scottish wheelchair ­curling team thrashed previously undefeated Slovakia for their third straight win of the Games after an opening loss to Canada.

With Gallagher's opening-day display having threatened to undo four years of hard work by reducing confidence levels to an all-time low, she paid tribute to the encouragement from Evans that had paved the way for her Super G success.

"After the result we had the other day I was like 'we really lost, like really lost'. We came last so we really had to work to pick ourselves up," Gallagher said . "I lost all my faith in myself, in Charlotte, in our processes, and I only had a couple of hours to put it back together because we had to be back on snow.

"Charlotte said to me 'you have to make a decision to turn it round and forget about all the pressure that was on us' and it has worked out.

"We've had to do that so many times along the way when we have been training, whether I have been scared of something or I have been physic­ally hurt or mentally hurt. We've had to pull ourselves together so many times that I guess it was all training for what happened from our downhill to the Super G.

"We wouldn't have got here if it wasn't for Charlotte. When I haven't believed in myself, she has believed in us and believed in herself."

At the Ice Cube Curling Centre in Sochi, Aileen Neilson's wheelchair curlers faced a tricky tie against Slovakia. They fell 2-0 down in the first end but completely turned things round to win 12-2 for their third victory of the round-robin stage.

Neilson, the skip, is optimistic about qualifying for the play-offs. "Our focus from the start of the competition was to get through the round-robin and that's still where our focus is - just one game at a time," she said. "I am much happier with my performance out there but in every single game I've had great support from the guys on ice, the guys on the bench and the support staff and family and friends all back home."

n Sainsbury's is a proud long-term supporter of the British Paralympic Association and a champion of inclusive sport for all. For more information, visit: www.Sainsburys.co.uk/activekids

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