sport

Brennan grateful for support

Mick Brennan, the ex-soldier who lost his legs in a suicide bomb attack in Iraq, finished in 10th spot on his Winter Paralympic debut in Sochi.

The 34-year-old sit-skier conquered a brutal super-G course on which 14 athletes crashed out.

That represented a huge personal success following a four-year build-up which included a divorce, a year out of the sport for mental health reasons and a nine-month absence with a broken sternum which put his place at the Games under serious threat.

The achievement, a triumph of will as much as skill, had the head coach of the Great Britain alpine skiing team, Tony McAllister, in tears.

"He's a real fighter, I've never met a tougher guy in my life," he said.

Brennan, who had been short of race practice heading into the competition, added: "It means a lot because I have had a rough year. It was touch and go whether I would make it here.

"My form coming into the holding camp had been absolutely diabolical and I was very depressed, but it shows the character of myself to keep chipping away and not give in.

"Then in the holding camp I was putting run after run after run together and I was building every single day and the confidence started to grow."

He said watching competitor after competitor fail to finish the course on deteriorating snow made him "nervous", but managed to stay "confident and passive" during his run.

Brennan also suffered a serious brain injury in the bomb attack, which occurred when he was serving with the Royal Signals in November 2004.

The Armed Forces Compensation Scheme only came into effect the following year and Brennan has never hidden his anger about not being compensated for his injuries.

"I am not bitter about getting injured, I am just bitter at not being compensated for my injuries," he said. "I am a very proud person. I am proud to have served my country and proud to have been out in Iraq."

And that pride was in evidence again at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre on Sunday, especially as he spoke movingly about the support of his family, including his ex-wife and 11-year-old daughter Kelsey.

Fighting back tears, Brennan said: "I spoke to my parents quickly (on Saturday night) and I spoke to my daughter in the afternoon.

"We basically had a quick chat, I don't even know if she knew what I was actually doing, she doesn't show any emotion.

"I said, 'I'll speak to you in a bit', and she went, 'bye!' There was no, 'Goodbye dad, good luck tomorrow', nothing like that.

"She's 11 now so in four years' time she will be 15 and hopefully I'll get her out here to cheer me on.

"My ex-wife and her new husband I would just like to thank for supporting me because they've never given me any grief when I've had to say, 'I'm going back out skiing' or not been able to have her (Kelsey) when it has been planned.

"They have never once moaned at me. Without their support I wouldn't be here."

Downhill silver medallists Jade Etherington, who is visually impaired, and her guide Caroline Powell watched Brennan's achievement, the former on her 23rd birthday, before turning their focus to bidding for a second medal of the Games in the women's super-G on Monday.

"Caroline and I love the speed, but we haven't finished a Super-G race together," said Etherington.