- Australian Winter Team
- Sports & Classification
- Schedule & Results
- Games Location
- About Us
Jessica Gallagher creates history
Jessica Gallagher has conquered the mountains as a Paralympic alpine skier, and now the 24-year-old is hoping to do the same on the athletics field, as her focus shifts towards gaining selection in the Australian Paralympic team for the London Games in 2012.
At the Vancouver Paralympics in March this year, Gallagher carved her way into Australian Paralympic folklore when she became the first Australian female Paralympic athlete to win a medal at a Winter Paralympics.
Gallagher won the bronze medal in the women’s vision-impaired Slalom, a feat made even more astonishing considering the circumstances surrounding her performance.
Before her history making moment, Gallagher had just 150 days of skiing experience in her life, a mere blip in comparison to the lifetimes of experience held by her main European and North American rivals.
“It’s very satisfying, we put in so much hard work to achieve this goal,” said Gallagher, of her thrill of medalling with her sighted guide Eric Bickerton.
“We haven’t been in this sport very long, and the girls we were racing against were very experienced. We’ve been dreaming about this for a long time, and it’s very exciting to actually have it come true.”
Gallagher credits her rapid rise in alpine skiing to the guidance of the Australian Paralympic Committee’s Winter Program head coach Steve Graham. With her background spanning many sports, including representative netball, basketball, athletics, and snowboarding, Gallagher was identified by Graham as a potential Paralympic winter sport star. He was clearly on to something.
Her rapid rise as a Paralympic skier came after her track and field career was placed on hold following the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing. Having earned selection in the Australian team in the 100m, discus and shot put, Gallagher was ruled out the day before the opening ceremony after Paralympic classifiers declared her right eye was 0.1 of a degree too sighted to compete at the Games.
But with a rare disease known as cone dystrophy which continues to deteriorate her sight, little did Gallagher know that cruel twist of fate would be the beginning of a journey that led her to a place in Australian Paralympic history.
The Australian Paralympic Committee’s talent transfer initiative identified alpine skiing as the ideal sport for Gallagher to refocus her athletic ability. She soon earned a place in the Australian Paralympic Winter Squad and after winning a gold medal at her first international event, the 2009 New Zealand Winter Games, she broke through for an IPC World Cup medal in January 2010. At that point, Gallagher made it known that she was the real deal.
Now with a Winter Paralympic bronze medal in her possession, Gallagher is determined to give the Summer Paralympic Games another crack, this time with javelin.
At the recent AWD National Championships in Perth, less than one month after the Vancouver Games, Gallagher finished third in the javelin with a throw of 29.79 metres.
“I’ve got a lot of options which is a great thing. I’ll see how I go in London. There are some goals in the Summer Games that I want to achieve,” said Gallagher.
For the next two years, Gallagher’s focus is firmly on winning gold in London, and she believes she can peak in time.
“A strong performance at the Athletics World Championships early next year is my first major goal.
“I’ve got plenty of time to train in the lead-up to London which is great. I’ll be solidly fit and strong which means I should be ready to perform to my best in London and ultimately win gold.”
But she isn’t ready to give away winter sport just yet.
“I haven’t made any definite plans for the next Winter Games, but I love skiing and would love to be in Sochi in 2014.”
By Rebekka Wake