Bourne’s para-alpine skier Jade Etherington has won a silver medal in the first of her five events in the Sochi 2014 Paralympics.
Etherington, 22, who is partially-sighted, competed for her first medal in the Downhill just after 6am (UK time) this morning (Saturday).
The former Deepings School pupil, who competes as part of a team with guide Caroline Powell, completed the course on which the Olympics were competed in February in a time of 1:31.55, to finish 2.74 seconds behind Slovakia’s Henrieta Farkasova and Nataly Subrtova who claimed gold with the first run of the day.
The medal is Great Britain’s first of the 2014 winter games, and GB’s first ever women’s ski medal at the Paralympics.
The Downhill discipline involves the highest speeds and therefore the greatest risks of all the alpine events which was evident when Etherington, who has just five percent of her vision, crashed into the side barrier after the finished line having pushed herself to the limit to earn a medal.
Competitors are allowed to prepare on the course but only get one run in competition.
The Sochi course is considered one of the toughest courses in the world and many athletes at the Olympics last month failed to complete the run.
A change in conditions on the course for race day meant the Downhill was running about 3 seconds quick than Etherington and the other athletes had experienced training when the snow was too soft to go at top speed.
In fact Etherington crashed on her second practice run.
A Downhill run begins at or near the top of the mountain and the gates are placed further apart than other alpine racing disciplines.
The course is designed to challenge the best skiers in a variety of ways: skiing at high speeds, through challenging turns, shallow dips, flats, and small jumps.
Etherington earned her medal with a solid run, tucking into the jumps well to keep her speed on landing.
At the bottom of the run Etherington and Powell had an agonising wait to find out if their efforts would yield them silver or bronze as the final competitors left the start gate.
But when last runner Australia’s Melissa Perrine went wide midway down the course to finish fourth Etherington’s first Paralympic medal was confirmed as silver.
Russia’s Aleksandra Frantceva and guide Pavel Zabotin claimed bronze.
Etherington’s GB team-mate Kelly Gallagher was in last place in the visually impaired Downhill.