Brennan conquers his emotions

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Mick Brennan, the former soldier who lost his legs in a suicide bomb attack in Iraq, paid a tearful tribute to his family after finishing in 10th place on his Winter Paralympic debut in Sochi.

The 34-year-old sit-skier from Doncaster conquered a brutal super-G course on which 14 athletes crashed out.

That represented a huge personal success following a four-year build-up which included a divorce, a year out of the sport for mental health reasons and a nine-month absence with a broken sternum which put his place at the Games under serious threat.

The achievement, a triumph of will as much as skill, had the head coach of the Great Britain alpine skiing team, Tony McAllister, in tears.

“He’s a real fighter, I’ve never met a tougher guy in my life,” he said.

Brennan, who had been short of race practice heading into the competition, added: “It means a lot because I have had a rough year. It was touch and go whether I would make it here.

“My form coming into the holding camp had been absolutely diabolical and I was very depressed, but it shows the character of myself to keep chipping away and not give in.

“Then in the holding camp I was putting run after run after run together and I was building every single day and the confidence started to grow.”

He said watching competitor after competitor fail to finish the course on deteriorating snow made him “nervous”, but he managed to stay “confident and passive” during his run.

Brennan also suffered a serious brain injury in the bomb attack, which occurred when he was serving with the Royal Signals in November 2004.

The Armed Forces Compensation Scheme only came into effect the following year and Brennan has never hidden his anger about not being compensated for his injuries.

“I am not bitter about getting injured, I am just bitter at not being compensated for my injuries,” he said. “I am a very proud person. I am proud to have served my country and proud to have been out in Iraq.”

And that pride was in evidence again at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre yesterday, especially as he spoke movingly about the support of his family, including his ex-wife and 11-year-old daughter Kelsey.

Fighting back tears, Brennan said: “I spoke to my parents quickly (on Saturday night) and I spoke to my daughter in the afternoon. We basically had a quick chat, I don’t even know if she knew what I was actually doing, she doesn’t show any emotion.

“I said, ‘I’ll speak to you in a bit’, and she went, ‘bye!’ There was no, ‘Goodbye dad, good luck tomorrow’, nothing like that.”

Jade Etherington and guide Caroline Powell completed a whirlwind journey from total strangers to Winter Paralympic medallists in 11 months by winning silver in the women’s downhill i on Saturday.

The pair marked only their third competitive downhill run together by claiming Great Britain’s first Paralympic medal on snow for 20 years. Paralympics GB won no medals at all four years ago. Their rise is all the more remarkable given how little time they have had to build a relationship, which is key to success in visually-impaired skiing.