Summer Training for Paralympic Ski Guide Gary Smith

Jane Reilly  |  Published: Aug 22nd 2016
IPC WC 2016: Cpl Smith Guiding Kelly Gallagher
IPC WC 2016: Cpl Smith Guiding Kelly Gallagher

Cpl Gary Smith, a Communications Technician from RAF Halton, has been training this Summer as a ski guide for visually impaired Paralympic Gold Medalist, Kelly Gallagher.  Gary, recently granted Elite Sportsman status by the RAF, is Captain of the RAF Men’s Alpine Ski Team and hopes to compete with Kelly in the 2018 Winter Paralympics in South Korea.

Gary says: “My role is to ski ahead of Kelly and guide her safely and competitively down the course, giving commands through a bluetooth headset at speeds of up to 100km/h

Kelly and Gary won 1 Gold, 1 Silver, and  2 Bronze Medals at the IPC World Cup Finals in Aspen, Colorado in March this year.  They were only 0.76 secs off winning a second Gold, remarkable so early in their partnership.  Since then they have trained in Austria in June and on the Fonna Glacier in Norway in July.  They’ve also been to fitness camps at Stirling University and the Help For Heroes Centre at Tedworth House.  This month Gary flies to Chile with the RAF Ski Team for speed training before heading back ready for the RAF Indoor Championships in September.

The World Championship heats start again in December and Gary states: “We’re looking forward to building on our success. The main focus for the season will be the World Championships in Tarvisio, Italy, where we aim to win at least one gold medal.

Duncan Freshwater, Performance Director of British Parasnowsport (new name for the British Disabled Ski Team) states:  It gives me great pleasure to report on Gary Smith and his involvement with our team.  Simply put, his involvement has been a revelation to us and a fantastic marker for where we wish to go in the future, we are extremely grateful for the RAF in supporting Gary in this role and are extremely keen to try and not only retain Gary, but to build a relationship with the RAF to seek to offer future personnel similar opportunities such has been the positive impact Gary and other members of the Armed Services have had on our programme.

Cpl Gary Smith had never skied until an RAF Skiing expedition in 2002 in Les Arcs, France.  He was hooked and became involved in the RAF Ski and Snowboard Champs, organised by the RAF Winter Sports Alpine Association. Within 4 years he was racing for the RAF squad and is currently RAF Overall Male Champion.  

Do you want to learn to ski or snowboard at the highest level like Gary?  The RAF Winter Sports Alpine Association is here to help the whole force to do just that, even complete beginners. The Indoor Ski and Snowboard Championships will be held at Castleford on 30 Sep 2016.    The 2017 Ski and Snowboard Championships will be held 14-28 January in Austria.

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