Millie Knight delivered a daring downhill display to bag a brave Beijing bronze at the Winter Paralympics – but admits the real twists and turns had already taken place at the start gate.
Visually impaired alpine skier Knight, 23, banked her fourth Paralympic medal on Saturday after battling back from a rocky ride on the World Cup circuit to miraculously clamber onto the podium.
Knight suffered a series of concussions over the last 12 months and admitted her preparations for the Games were derailed after a severe incident in Austria last February.
The Kent speedster has been desperate to overcome the ‘fear’ of falling once again and says laying those demons to rest in Yanqing – and claiming ParalympicsGB’s first medal of the Games – was far from plain sailing.
She said: “At the start gate I was absolutely terrified – I was so nervous.
Day One. Medal One.🥉
— ParalympicsGB (@ParalympicsGB) March 5, 2022
“Every time I’ve closed my eyes over the last 48 hours, I visualised the course. It’s been fantastic but also pretty terrifying, because every time I tried to sleep, all I could see was the start gate.
“But that has actually been fantastic because it meant when I was in the start gate today, I knew exactly which line we needed to take and what I needed to do on each section.
“I pushed out and we achieved every goal that we needed to do – Brett’s reaction at the bottom was unbelievable, and it was so worth it.
“It’s very surreal. We certainly haven’t processed the emotions yet and I think it will take quite a long time before we actually do that.
“I was sat back in the UK and crossing the line with a smile on my face was my No.1 goal.
“A medal was certainly something we weren’t aiming for because we genuinely didn’t believe we were at the level that would get us a medal.
“To be standing here now as bronze medallists is the most unbelievable thing.”
Knight missed over six months of action after suffering a serious concussion in Leogang just over one year ago.
That sent her Paralympic preparations spiralling out of control before a gruelling period of recovery over Christmas catapulted her back into contention.
Knight and Wild, 29, claimed Super Combined gold and Super-G bronze – on her 23rd birthday – at January’s World Championships in Lillehammer but the downhill event has continued to prove problematic.
🥉 Millie Knight delivered a daring downhill display to bag a brave Beijing bronze at the Winter @Paralympics – but admits the real twists and turns had already taken place at the start gate.
— Will Jennings (@WillJennings96) March 5, 2022
Skiers are forced to navigate their way down a hair-raising 450m-800m vertical drop but Knight and Wild, who juggles his career in the guide with a job in The Royal Navy, held their nerve when it mattered to climb onto the podium.
Wild said: “I knew from day one that she had the ability to get on that podium.
“That’s something I’ve been trying to tell her for the last four or five days.
“Today was the best run we’ve had, she put it all together, she pushed the fear aside and the scary parts she made full sense of. It’s phenomenal.”
Knight now turns her attention to Sunday’s Super-G in Yanqing, an event where she also won silver – along with the downhill – at PyeongChang 2018 and harbours further viable medal hopes.
She admits she isn’t getting carried away but hopes her rapid Paralympic start can lay the platform for progression.
“Today is a fantastic boost and we’ve certainly over-achieved already,” added Knight, one of over 1,000 athletes are able to train full-time, access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support thanks to vital National Lottery funding.
“But tomorrow is another day and you’re only as good as your last race.
“We’re going to reset tonight and tomorrow, it’s a new opportunity.”
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