06 March 2022

Neil Simpson’s historic gold can inspire next generation – GB Snowsport chief

06 March 2022

History-making British Winter Paralympian Neil Simpson has been hailed as a “once-in-a-generation” star who can help inspire future talents.

Scottish teen Simpson claimed gold in the Super-G vision-impaired class in Beijing, triumphing alongside guide and brother Andrew.

The 19-year-old claimed Britain’s first male Paralympic gold on snow, in a major breakthrough on the same day Menna Fitzpatrick became Britain’s most decorated Winter Paralympian with silver in the women’s Super-G vision-impaired class.

Now GB Snowsport head coach Pat Sharples has explained the scale of the early British success in Beijing.

“It’s been an amazing couple of days, it’s a dream start for the team across some very, very challenging disciplines, especially after all the challenges of the pandemic,” Sharples told the PA news agency.

“To see the athletes, coaches and support staff’s work pay off is brilliant.

“It’s a huge medal for Neil, who’s one of our youngest athletes. It’s his first ever Games, and to do it with his brother. Their relationship is so special, it really is. They are a real team, not just brothers, it’s beyond that. They’ve had to work incredibly hard.

“Neil, we’ve always known as a once-in-a-generation athlete that comes through, but for Andrew to be a guide at the level that Neil needs, it’s really, really tough to get someone at that level.

“And Andrew’s had to work incredibly hard to do that, and it’s all paid off for them today.”

Fitzpatrick’s fifth Winter Paralympics medal sets her out on her own in British terms, while the young Simpson brothers boast the potential for a success-littered future.

Sharples explained how merging the GB Olympic and Paralympic Snowsport teams continues to pay dividends across all disciplines.

“It was back in 2018 when GB Para and GB Snowsport merged together, and we founded the world-class programme together,” said Sharples.

“And as soon as we did that, the coaches were coming to us saying this kid Neil Simpson was extremely talented.

“They were saying he’s someone we’d look at for Beijing and Milano Cortina in 2026, and even beyond.

“He’s got so many more years in him, I feel this is just the start. And what a start as well.

Pat Sharples, pictured, has hailed the British success on the slopes at the Beijing Paralympics (Nick Potts/PA) (PA Archive)

“And for Andrew as well, he’s dedicated himself to what Neil’s doing, but they are very much a team.

“They come as a package and they’ve worked so hard to get where they are.

“It just makes it extra special because they are brothers, it must feel amazing to be them right now.”

Sharples hopes the early success on the slopes in Beijing will whip up new interest in the snow sports, insisting accessing opportunities across Britain has never been easier.

“I started on the dry slopes myself and we have a lot of dry slopes and six indoor snow centres in the UK,” said Sharples.

“Many of our athletes start there and a lot of para athletes have their first taste on holiday, and some parents are even their first guides.

“For anyone wanting to find out more, the Snowsport England, Scotland and Wales websites have a full list of centres and all the options for training, academies and the routes into the world-class programme.

“And we’ve got to thank UK Sport and the National Lottery, without whom none of what we do would be possible.”

:: National Lottery players are one of the biggest supporters of ParalympicsGB winter athletes and raise more than £30 million each week for good causes, including grassroots and elite sport. If you want to learn more about how you can take part in inclusive sporting opportunities, visit www.parasport.org.uk.

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