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Charlotte Evans, from Chatham in Kent, won Britain's first ever Gold medal at the Winter Paralympics in Sochi as the guide for visually impaired skier Kelly Gallagher. Charlotte first tried skiing as a youngster, when her Dad took the family to a dry ski slope. She quickly took to the sport and progressed to snow. By 2009, she was part of the England Alpine Ski Team and English overall champion before she got injured while competing at the British Championships.
PT: How did family ski holidays shape your love for skiing and your progression into being a pro skier?
Charlotte Evans: I began skiing at the age of five at the Chatham dry slope. My dad went on a ski holiday and thought it would be a great sport for us as a family to get into. What started off as something for us to do as a family holiday, then turned into us racing every weekend on a dry slope. When I was about 13 or 14 I moved onto racing on snow. The next season, I was selected for the England Team and from then on I was hooked.
PT: What advice can you give a young skier who currently enjoys and excels on skiing holidays but wants to take the sport more seriously?
CE: I would say the dry slope races are the best way to get involved. You make so many friends and it’s a real family weekend. This also allows you to know if you really want to do it. Skiing is an expensive sport so it tries out whether you want to be a part of the sport, without flying abroad.
PT: How did your partnership with Kelly come about and was it an easy decision for you to become her guide?
CE: In 2009 I was injured at the British Championships and whilst recovering and doing rehab, I was working as a coach. I got asked to be a part of the team as they had been told I had patience and would be suited to the job. I planned on seeing how it went, however as soon as I started I wanted to improve Kelly's skiing and knew I could get the best out of her. So I stayed and we worked on her technique.
PT: What has been the key to your success with Kelly - presumably it is not just about skiing technique, but also about trust and understanding?
CE: Yes communication and trust are the most important parts. The background work is very important before even getting on snow.
PT: You’re now a Gold medallist - how does that feel and how has your life changed since coming back from Sochi?
CE: It feels pretty good and I think that statement will forever make me smile. We worked so hard for four years and they were extremely hard so it is the best reward we could have asked for! My life is still the same, I just get to do amazing things like going into schools and answering questions that people sometimes don't get a chance to ask, so it’s really a great time for me to continue making people more aware of disabled skiing. I am really enjoying being back.
PT: Can you remember much about the Super-G race in Sochi - talk us through the race and how it felt standing on the top step on the podium?
CE: Sochi is a bit of a blur, however, before the day started we had decided we would just have fun. The first day had not gone to plan and it was very difficult to bounce back ready for the next race with that disappointment. However, we felt we couldn't feel any worse after that day so we would just have fun. The sun was shining and we felt confident. We were first down so we were not sure if it was a good run or bad so it was just a waiting game. When the race finished and we were still in the lead I could not believe what I was seeing. We walked around in a blur for the rest of the day. We didn't really understand the achievement of what we had done but also couldn't believe we had won. All I know is I was more nervous for the medal ceremony than I was when I had raced in the day. Maybe that’s just because we had never won anything like this before.
PT: What are your favourite ski resorts when you are not racing - what makes them so great?
CE: I am a massive fan of Austria. I haven't been on a holiday in so long but that is definitely my plan to go on a family ski holiday next year.
PT: What's the best thing for young skiers to focus on - completing a course of lessons/badges or just free ski and have fun in the mountains?
CE: I believe in always making sure your children are having fun - that is so important. When the fun is gone they will struggle to win because the passion has gone. I also believe free skiing is very important. Getting as many miles behind them as they can, with different terrains different surfaces everything.
PT: Your sister Emily is also a skier – so are you both really competitive and does she think she’s better than you?
CE: My sister is very competitive in any sport but that is why she is so talented. I haven't seen talent in people the way I have Emily in a long time, maybe I am biased as it is my sister but she is an incredible skier! She is a real treat to watch but also has an incredible eye for knowing how to improve someone’s skiing.