With the Winter Paralympics just around the corner, we spoke to one of Kent’s young Paralympians competing at the event in PyeongChang.
Canterbury’s Millie Knight is a visually impaired skier who is making her second games appearance after being Team GB’s flag bearer at the Paralympics in Sochi in 2014, at the age of 15. I spoke to her whilst she took some time off of the slopes at her training camp in Switzerland.
“Training is going well,” she said. “I had a really bad crash at the end of last season, which was in South Korea, and I sustained quite a bad concussion. So that’s taken six months to get over.
“Since then, I’ve had a lot of training and some races.”
Millie competes in the slalom, giant slalom Super-G, Super Combined and Downhill events with the aid of a sighted guide.
Despite her injury, Millie enjoyed success at last year’s World Championships, winning a gold and three silvers. Having competed for so long, it seems as though she takes it all in her stride; I asked her what it was like to prepare for something so big, both mentally and physically:
“Skiing and competing has been my life ever since I was 12, so really, I don’t know any different. All my thoughts everyday, all day are all how I can make myself better and so that’s just the life I lead.
“The 2018 games have always been my dreams and my aspirations, and now it’s finally here, it’s a bit crazy.”
Last year could certainly be considered a good year for Millie, who was shortlisted in the final three for the BBC’s Young Sports Personality of the Year.
“That was amazing because like I said, I sort of plod on and I work really hard, and skiing is what I do and to actually be recognised for that especially as it’s a minority sport, it’s great to get that recognition.”
Millie’s relationship with guide Brett Wild, formally of the Royal Navy, is obviously incredibly important; Millie’s lack of sight means that she has to ski equipped with a special bluetooth helmet that allows Brett to communicate the upcoming obstacles to her.
“It’s a very special relationship that we have to have; I have to have total trust in Brett because I’m flying down a mountain at 115 km/h and I need to trust and have faith in absolutely everything that he tells me because I can only see 2 meters.
“He always says he gets scared going down at those speeds, never mind about me!”
Last time around in Sochi, Millie finished fifth in both of the events she competed in. Hoping not to jinx it too much, I also asked her how she thinks she might fare in terms of getting a medal this time around:
“I’m not really sort of focussing on actual medal results, I’m more focussing on what I can do now to make myself better and out myself into position that could give me a competitive edge.
“But, based on last season’s results where we won a gold and three silvers at the World Championships, it’s looking okay.”
You can catch Millie in action when the Winter Paralympics kicks off on March 8th, following the end of the Winter Olympics on February 25th.
Photos by Jason Dodd Photography