Paralympic success due to 'sisterly bond' says Powell
PUBLISHED: 09:00 13 June 2015
20-year-old reflects on Great Britain glory and what the future holds
Former Coopers Coborn pupil Caroline Powell admits it is “really cool” to have won medals for Great Britain, but conceded it still hasn’t properly sunk in.
The 20-year-old returned to her old school last month to show off the four medals she won at the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games.
Athletes normally train for years leading up to such a big compeition, but Powell only had six months to get prepared and develop an understanding with Jade Etherington, to act as her guide in the visually impaired skiing events.
What enabled the pair to become Great Britain’s most successful female Winter Paralympians was the bond they developed whilst flying all over the globe.
“I started skiing when I was two, the old clip-in boots, and then when I was about four I started at skate school,” said Powell.
“My parents put me in for better lessons and then they advised me to go up to racing, so I did. From there I started to become an instructor and afterwards I went into the adapter system to help people with disabilities.
“It was there that I met a guy who was head coach of the British disabled ski team. His name was Tony McAlister and he thought it would be good to meet Jade and from then I kind of got the job as Jade’s ski guide.
“But instead of being on a four-year cycle because the Paralympics are every four years, we ended up only having six months together to build a bond and trust before going to Sochi to compete.”
That wasn’t much time for the visually impaired Etherington to develop a trust with Powell, but by travelling the world together they struck up a sisterly bond.
A few changes were made by the former Coopers pupil to how her partner would ski and that enabled the pair to improve together and turn themselves into athletes capable of winning medals for Great Britain.
“When we started Jade had her own expectations of what a guide should be and first of all she wrote those down on a piece of paper and we talked about it,” added Powell.
“But I wanted to put my own twist on it, being a ski instructor and coming from a high level skiing background.
“I thought of different things that would work for her and we tested things out. We just tweaked different things.
“But the majority of our preparation for the Paralympics we were on our own, just us two travelling the world without a coach or anyone, so we kind of got that bond from being on our own and not having any real support network around us.
“We had our families, but they were at home, a million miles away, so we looked after each other really and we built this sister-like bond.”
After developing that sibling-type togetherness, Powell and Etherington won three silvers in the downhill, slalom and combined events as well as bronze in the super-G race.
It was an incredible return and made the pair Great Britain’s most successful female Winter Paralympians ever.
Over a year has passed since Powell and Etherington’s achievements and although the 20-year-old has spoken about her glorious experience several times since returning, walking around with four medals takes some getting used to.
She added: “It is really, really cool to have won these medals for Great Britain and it has hit home now because I’ve been to so many events and talked about it. But I’m still shocked about the fact that I’m carrying four medals around with me.
“It is a joint effort, so I have to share the success with Jade.”
What does the future hold for the pair now? A shot at gold in the 2018 Winter Paralympics in South Korea? Unfortunately not.
Powell added: “We’re retired now apparently. I am 20 and retired according to the media!
“Technically we are retired from racing, I guess, but we are not retired – we are so young.
“We’ve achieved the most we can, though, and maybe if we put another four years into it we would be that much better and be able to get that many more medals and maybe even gold.
“But the funding isn’t there and the support isn’t. We would have loved to have more support and funding, but it isn’t there and it wasn’t promised to us so we have decided to call it quits whilst we have got medals.”
The next goal for Powell is to have her own ski institution and if she can achieve glory with GB, you hope she can do that too.