A PARITALLY-sighted skier has put her career on hold to focus on qualifying for the Winter Paralympics.
Jade Etherington, 21, who grew up in Bourne, was born with Axenfield’s syndrome, a genetic condition that causes fluid blockages in the eye and can lead to total blindness.
She had six eye operations before the age of 12 and began to lose her sight permanently three years ago.
But the former Deepings School pupil had discovered a talent for skiing and was determined not to let her sight loss get in the way. During the 2011/12 winter season Jade, who skis with a guide, entered 22 races and won a medal in 20, eight of which were gold.
She is now a member of the elite squad of the British Disabled Ski Team and hopes to qualify for the Team GB squad for the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
Jade graduated from a teacher training course at Bishop Grosseteste University College Lincoln this summer and had to decide whether to take a PGCE course and become a teacher, or concentrate fully on her skiing.
She said: “I have put my education on hold to compete full time. I am desperately trying to get funds to help.
“It was a really tough decision. The amount I have had to give up is huge. I will have to leave behind my education, my career, and seeing my friends and family.
“But I had a really good season and I thought I should take the opportunity because I am not going to get it again.
“I have met so many more athletes this year and had an insight into their training regimes and what they give up.
“It has inspired me to train harder and get out there more often.”
In order to qualify for the 2014 Team GB squad, Jade need to compete at world cup level. To do that, she needs to raise £20,000 to cover the cost of equipment, travel, accommodation and lift passes.
She said: “I had a really good season last year. I have gone from international to world cup standard, which I wasn’t expecting. Everything is accelerating and that involves increased costs.”
But Jade is determined to compete at the 2014 games and hopes the Olympic buzz that has gripped the nation will encourage people to sponsor her.
Jade, who was selected to carry the Olympic torch through Lincoln, where she now lives, added: “It’s great that the country is supporting our athletes but I hope they don’t forget about the winter games.”
If you would like to help Jade, call her on 07714 170416.