Britain’s most decorated Winter Paralympians Menna Fitzpatrick and Jen Kehoe still can’t get over their PyeongChang success and newfound celebrity status.
The pair won slalom gold on the final day of the Paralympic Games in March to add to their super combined and giant slalom silvers and super-G bronze.
Almost half a year later, the pair are finding it hard to believe it really happened and are eager for more glory on the slopes.
“To be honest, it still hasn’t sunk in,” said Fitzpatrick, who joined the public in running two kilometres around Great Hollands Recreation Ground in Bracknell for #teamparkrun; a campaign that will see National Lottery-funded Olympic and Paralympic heroes inspire local communities across the UK to get active.
“Winning those medals in PyeongChang is the highlight of my year and to be able to do it in a sport that I love is absolutely amazing, so it hasn’t properly sunk in, but I think it will eventually.
“Doing so well at the Paralympics was a little bit of a shock for me, but it was amazing because we now know that both of us can achieve the gold medal and achieve what we’ve been dreaming since we were little kids.
“Now it’s about going and producing the same, so it has altered my targets slightly from winning that dream medal to winning more medals because we’re at that level, which is awesome.
“Being GB’s most successful Winter Paralympians just spurs us on even more, we’re ready to go and do the same and keep our title, so we just push even harder.”
Kehoe added, speaking in Bracknell, where the UK’s National Lottery funded Olympic and Paralympic athletes are once again teaming up with parkrun to encourage the nation to get active with #teamparkrun: “It’s made us hungry to keep working and keep seeing where we can go, we didn’t expect to do so well at these Games, so we’ve got an opportunity to do even more.”
Despite rising to fame after the Paralympic success and being recognised everywhere, Kehoe revealed that they both try to retain a balanced life and have fun when they can.
She said: “My partner, Dan, keeps saying ‘you’re a celebrity’ and I say, ‘no we’re not!’ But then you come to an event like this where people are so warm and want to talk to you and they’ve seen you on tv and you think, ‘maybe we are a little bit!’
“We were on a plane and someone asked if we were the girls that won the medals, so that kind of thing makes it hard to believe because we just do what we do, go skiing and love it, then suddenly you’re catapulted into the spotlight.
“But we do have fun, if we’re going to a different country we’ll try and tag a day on beforehand to visit a town or something to see a bit of history or culture.
“One of the reasons I love working with Menna is we have the ability to go and win the gold medal but we actually first and foremost want to go and have fun and enjoy it.
“I met Menna when she was 17 and so to watch her grow up into a young woman and take on the challenge of dealing with media and pressure it’s been amazing to see her flourish.”
Fitzpatrick added: “We’re definitely a team, some of our competitors aren’t quite as in sync as we are. I wouldn’t want to do it without her.”
To thank the public for their support through playing The National Lottery, Britain’s top athletes will volunteer as tail walkers at parkrun events across the UK from 18 August to 9 September. Everyone is welcome at #teamparkrun – be part of it! www.teamparkrun.com