sport

Etherington defies the pain

Record-breaking skier Jade Etherington battled through the pain barrier to carry the flag for Great Britain at the closing ceremony of the Winter Paralympics in Sochi - but admitted her future in the sport was uncertain.

The 23-year-old refused to let illness deny her the chance to take part in the athletes' parade into the Fisht Stadium on Sunday night after it forced her out of her final race.

The Lincoln athlete was laid low with an ovarian cyst rupture on Saturday night and spent much of the following day in a wheelchair due to the intense pain before managing to walk at the night's parade.

Etherington said: "I am so honoured. I felt better in the evening for the ceremony, but I was taking pain killers. I was in a wheelchair for most of the day, but I knew I needed to stand to lift the flag."

Etherington, who is visually impaired, and guide Caroline Powell withdrew from the giant slalom after a gruelling week which has seen them become the first Britons to win four medals at a single Winter Paralympics.

They won silver in the downhill, slalom and super combined and bronze in the super-G as Britain finished their most successful ever Winter Paralympics with six medals.

The haul represented some return from a pair on their Games debuts, especially as they had only met last April and only started skiing together last August.

Their potential for future Games should be exciting, but Etherington, a trainee geography teacher, warned that she had not yet decided if she would continue competing.

Sacrifice

She said: "It has been such a hard journey. You sacrifice so much, your family, your friends.

"You put in a lot of time and money and when you are VI (visually-impaired) you have to put in money for your guide, you have to build up the relationship and, emotionally, without all the other skiing, you have to work with someone and find that great bond.

"It is great we have found that. Four years is a lot to ask of someone for all that commitment and time and training.

"If the sport changed and you got a lot more support for the team and you have better programmes then who knows, I might carry on.

"Also, our expectations have changed from one day to the next. I don't really know what I want right now."

While Etherington must decide if those programmes run by Disability Snowsport UK, the governing body in Britain, can meet her new ambitions, more funding for its alpine skiers is set to be forthcoming from UK Sport after smashing their target of at least two medals.

Chief executive Liz Nicholl said: "If I were them I would be very optimistic about future investment, because they have shown that they can do it.

"They have delivered fantastically. So we will go into these reviews being very confident that this is a programme that knows how to identify the talent and knows how to support the talent."