The pair were Great Britain’s most successful winter Paralympians in South Korea
By Aaron Fowler
Last Updated: 09/11/18 3:19pm
They’ve received MBEs from the Queen, camped on a glacier and presented a BAFTA award – it’s been an eventful time for visually impaired skier Menna Fitzpatrick and her guide Jen Kehoe since the Winter Paralympics in PyeongChang.
The pair became Great Britain’s most successful winter Paralympians in South Korea earlier this year when they won a bronze medal, two silvers and a gold.
Last week they won The Times Disability Sportswoman of the Year award and Sky Sports caught up with the duo to discuss life after the Winter Paralympics and the season ahead.
“We’ve been really busy. We’ve had quite a lot of events, talks, going in to schools to try and inspire the next generation of athletes,” said Fitzpatrick.
“One of the highlights for both of us was presenting the sports award at the BAFTAS. We were both very surprised when that email dropped into our inbox. We both thought someone had the wrong email address when we read it,” Kehoe added.
“We had a couple of months’ break straight after the Paralympics and then we were back in the gym in May. In June and July, we were back on the indoor slopes rebuilding the foundations and spending the summer doing strength and conditioning.
“We went over to Austria for nine days for a camp on one of the glaciers, which was really productive but in really challenging conditions.
The next big competition for Fitzpatrick and Kehoe is the World Para-alpine skiing Championships in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia and Sella Nevea, Italy in January.
It’s a competition in which they’re determined to do well in following a disappointing World Championships in 2017, Kehoe explained.
“We had a pretty difficult World Championships 12-18 months ago. Menna had broken her hand about three months previously, so at the World Championships we were not race ready. We were still on the recovery path, getting back up to full speed.
“We managed to scrape a bronze medal and it was a fight to get that. It’s something we’re both very proud of but I think we would like to put in a stronger performance. “
The 34-year-old is currently serving in the Royal Engineers but has been released to train and compete with Fitzpatrick at the World Championships.
Fitzpatrick has completed a media production course and was recently offered a job working on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
When asked how they deal with the pressure of competition, Fitzpatrick said: “We’ve been really good at setting our goals and realistic goals. We don’t put much pressure on ourselves to come out with specific results but there probably will be some pressure once we get to the races.
“The fact we enjoy it a lot and the fact we have got a gold medal from the Paralympic Games, we just want to go out there and do it again.”
Kehoe added: “We want to do well but we’re really conscious there are lots of other really talented skiers out there and anything can happen, so we are working as hard as we can to be the best we possibly can.”
The pair spend a lot of time together while away from home for training and competitions. In their spare time they like listening to podcasts, drink lots of tea and make use of Fitzpatrick’s Netflix subscription.
Fitzpatrick and Kehoe have a great relationship but highlighted the importance of also having time apart.
Kehoe explained: “We try and give each other space throughout the day or it can get pretty intense, especially if we’re sharing a room, which we do quite often.”
“We’re really good at managing time. If someone wants to have a nap, they can do and that’s their time to have the room,” added Fitzpatrick.
British Para Snowsport has merged with British Ski and Snowboard, which means the pair now have access to more support staff including a coach, assistant coach, ski technician, psychologist, physiotherapist and strength and conditioning coaches.
“Para Snowsport’s in a really healthy place in terms of funding due to the success we have had over the last two games. There are not that many athletes at the moment,” said Kehoe.
“Quite a few people retired. I think having para sport recognised on a par with the able-bodied disciplines is amazing.”