What a great winter games for ParalympicsGB! As the minister of state for disabled people, the games began for me at the first ever lighting of the Heritage Flame at Stoke Mandeville.
The Heritage Flame celebrates the UK’s unique place in the Games’ history as the birthplace of the Paralympic movement, and it remains lit during the games.
I am absolutely delighted with the ParalympicsGB result. We came away with one gold, three silvers and two bronze medals, finishing 10th in the medal table
This was way ahead of our pre-games target of two medals.
As a result this was our most successful games since 1984.
For a country that is not exactly blessed with an abundance of ski resorts, this was a fantastic achievement.
When the team returned to the UK, I joined them at a reception at 10 Downing Street and was able to personally congratulate all the team members, and especially the medal winners Jade Etherington, Kelly Gallagher and the wheelchair curling team.
Kelly Gallagher, with her guide Charlotte Evans, has earned a place in the history books after winning gold in the visually impaired Super-G.
This was our first ever gold in the Winter Paralympics and we’ve been competing since they were first held in Sweden back in 1976!
Jade Etherington, supported by her guide Caroline Powell, became the first British woman to win a Winter Paralympic medal on snow when she won silver in the visually impaired downhill. She went on to win a further two silver medals in slalom and super combined and a bronze in Super G. She showed me her medals – they are surprisingly heavy, and she was wearing four.
Historically curling has been one of our strongest winter sports and the wheelchair curling team, skippered by Aileen Neilson with teammates Angie Malone, Jim Gault, Gregor Ewan and Bob McPherson did a great job beating China to secure bronze.
I also had a very interesting chat with sit-skier Mick Brennan – a former soldier who lost his legs in a suicide bomb in Iraq in 2004.
He recorded a very impressive eighth position in Super Combined, 10th in the Super G and 14th in the giant slalom.
I am immensely proud of our team and they have done a fantastic job.
The team told me they are already looking forward to Pyeongchang in 2018.
Following the Crimean crisis, I didn’t get to visit Sochi, so I have donated the snow jacket and sportswear given to me by ParalympicsGB to local charity Snowbility, The Collett School and the Riding for the Disabled at Great Gaddesden.
Snowbility is a charity based at the Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead that uses snow sports to help individuals with additional needs, such as autism and dyspraxia, as well as all forms of rehabilitation challenges. They do an incredible job and have helped numerous young people improve their skiing ability and confidence.
They have a dinner and fundraising event coming up, for more information contact my office or visit their website at www.snowbility.co.uk.
Mike Penning is the MP for Hemel Hempstead. You can contact his office on 01442 251126 or get in touch through his website at www.mikepenning.com