A PARTIALLY-sighted skier is nearing her dream of qualifying for the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games after a Mercury appeal brought in £5,000 of sponsorship money.
Jade Etherington, 20, was born with Axenfield’s syndrome, a genetic condition that causes fluid blockages in the eye and can lead to total blindness.
In June the Mercury spotlighted Jade and the appeal she was making for sponsorship to help her attend ranking competitions and buy new equipment.
Since then a range of generous sponsors have donated £5,000 to Jade’s cause.
The money has been well spent on some top-of-the-range skis which have given a fantastic boost to her quest to compete at the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia.
Jade said she was very grateful to everyone who had helped so far.
“Thank you all for the fantastic help,” she said.
“I would never have been able to compete or train this season without the money raised through the Mercury article.”
Partially-sighted skiers follow a sighted guide down the mountain slopes, with the guide relaying instructions.
Jade and her guide Fiona Gingell started the winter season in great form, winning six medals in six races.
Their first event was a slalom at the indoor slope in Langraaf, Holland. Jade and Fiona took one silver and one bronze, despite Jade crashing in one run, boosting their points total and European ranking.
Jade said: “Even though the result wasn’t what was expected it showed how well the summer training had paid off and how close Fiona and I were to the top athletes.”
The second event was a European Cup competition in Pitzal, Austria. As Jade and Fiona arrived, so did the super-G and downhill skis bought with money donated following the Mercury article.
Jade had never used the longer super-G skis before but was encouraged to enter a couple of races by her coaches.
She said: “We were excited to try the skis so the coaches advised us to take part in the two international Super-G races the next day to get a feel for the skis in an appropriate setting. I have always preferred speed and it showed when we received gold in both races.
“From never have skied on that length skis to winning two races was an amazing experience and we are defiantly looking forward to more speed events.”
The pair’s third event was a European Cup competition in Kuhtai, Austria. Jade and Fiona entered four races and won them all, earning them two more golds.
The medals mean the pair have not only qualified for European Cup events, but also World Cup competitions.
She added: “We are waiting upon our world rankings for each discipline which should be published in the new year.
“Next year should be a brilliant season and we are hoping to continue our position with every race entered with have been on the podium.”
Jade has also been given a conditional offer to carry the Olympic Torch through Lincoln in June after being nominated by Bishop Grosseteste University College, Lincoln where she studies. The offer will be confirmed in March.
She said: “Carrying the torch is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I hope is confirmed in March.
“ I will get to hold the flame with my guide Fiona and it will give us a taste of what it is like representing Great Britain at such a major event.
“Being selected would be great as it wouldn’t just raise awareness of future Paralympians but also the Winter Olympics and Paralympics, and how they are just as important and eventful as the summer games.”
Despite her impressive performances, Jade still needs sponsorship for equipment and travel. If you would like to help, visit www.justgiving.com/jadeetherington.