Jade Etherington quits skiing after 'no support' from governing body

By Nick HopeBBC Olympic sports reporter
Etherington on ski retirement at 23

Britain's most decorated female Winter Paralympian Jade Etherington says she quit skiing because the sport's governing body did not back her enough.

The visually impaired 23-year-old won four medals at Sochi 2014, but retired earlier this month.

Former model and GB skier Heather Mills has labelled the programme a "joke".

"If there was support there - be it coach or management - then it definitely would have changed my decision," Etherington told BBC Sport.

UK Sport say they are happy with the progress the British Disabled Ski Team [BDST] has made towards becoming a fully professional setup.

Etherington 'proud' of historic silver

They rewarded BDST with £2.7m in funding as a result of Etherington's success and that of Kelly Gallagher, who won the country's first-ever Winter Paralympic gold.

The financial support only came into effect at the beginning of last month though, with the Paralympic head coach Tony McAllister and performance director, Andrew Lockerbie, both having departed over the summer.

"It was very difficult after the Games," added Etherington, who is based in Lincoln and hopes to qualify as a geography teacher. "I didn't even have a phone call saying what was going to happen and didn't know my coach had left.

"For me it's about the quality of my life.

"Even though they have this funding, if the support and the structure is not there then it's not worth it - I'd rather be happy and [have] no money."

UK Sport funding for Winter Paralympic skiing
Winter Paralympics:Funding figure:
Turin 2006No funding
Vancouver 2010£205,000
Sochi 2014£405,400
Pyeongchang 2018£2,749,000 (£676,950*)
* represents first-year funding.

Mills missed the Paralympics after a fall-out with the International Paralympic Committee but says she invested between £60,000-70,000 into the British team before the Sochi Games.

The former wife of ex-Beatle Sir Paul McCartney insists that with the right structure she would be happy to spend more, but is now considering setting up an alternative programme.

"It [the existing setup] is just a joke and as far as disabled sport is concerned in Britain it's a mess and needs a revamp," Mills told BBC Sport.

"I would like to set something up where disabled people are making the decisions, not people with two arms and two legs that don't particularly ski very well."

Etherington skis to World Championship bronze

Fiona Young, the chief executive for Disability Snowsport UK [DSUK], who help administer the British setup, refutes claims that they did not attempt regular contact with Etherington after the Sochi Paralympics.

She also insists the sport has done the best it can amid concerns over whether the DSUK charity - which has supported the skiers since the 2006 Turin Games - would go bankrupt.

"It almost went under at the end of last year because of the extent of the support going to the team," Young told BBC Sport.

"The athletes don't always see what is going on behind the scenes, but we've worked tirelessly to secure this funding and are really positive about the plans going forward."

Former international downhill skier Duncan Freshwaterexternal-link will join the programme as their new performance director in the New Year and will be tasked with recruiting new coaches and support staff.

Paralympics GB Sochi alpine skiing medals
Kelly Gallagher and guide Charlotte Evans (visually impaired Super-G)Jade Etherington and guide Caroline Powell (visually impaired Downhill)Jade Etherington and guide Caroline Powell (Super-G)
Jade Etherington and guide Caroline Powell (Slalom)
Jade Etherington and guide Caroline Powell (Super Combined)

"We are confident the governing body are making the right decisions," said UK Sport director of performance Simon Timson, who sees comparisons with British Cycling's setup.

"If you go back to where that started in the mid-1990s you'd have probably found a very similar situation to the one in British disability skiing at the moment."

The Para-alpine skiing World Cup season begins in La Molina, Spain, in early January.

However, the IPC World Championshipsexternal-link in the Canadian resort of Panorama in March will be the main event from which UK Sport shall assess the team's performances ahead of a funding review later in 2015.

Kelly Gallagher and Charlotte Evans win historic GB Winter Paralympic gold

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