Menna Fitzpatrick is a visually impaired alpine skier competing with British Army Officer Jennifer Kehoe as her sighted guide on the World Cup circuit.
Menna and Jen became Britain’s Most-Decorated Winter Paralympians at the 2018 Pyeongchang Paralympic Games, winning one gold, two silver and one bronze medal.
Menna was born visually impaired; she has no vision in her left eye and limited sight in her right. Her parents were determined that she would not be disadvantaged by this and, when she was five years old, they taught her to ski. Menna has less than five per cent overall vision, which means she skis with a guide. She learned to ski on family holidays in France. After being spotted at the Chill Factore snow centre in Manchester, she was invited to train with the British Parasnowsports Team with her Dad as her guide. This was a great partnership and was a great way to start racing. They began racing in the IPCAS races in Landgraaf, which they placed 4th in their first race. The following year they began to enter more races in Roll Rinn and Lachtal. This was the start of her amazing journey towards the Paralympics.
In September 2015, Menna started working with British Army Captain Jen Kehoe, who had been guiding for a couple of years with the team. They hit it off instantly and have been working as a pair for just over two years. They had a hugely successful first season together where they became the first ever British winter sports athletes to win the Overall World Cup Champions title, as well as winning the overall title for Giant Slalom. They also became British Champions in the same year.
Menna and Jen are both competing in the Yorkshire UCI Road Race, a gruelling 106km ride across Yorkshire, on a tandem, on 21st September.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
My name is Menna Fitzpatrick. I was born 5 May 1998 and I’m a British alpine ski racer. I’m visually impaired having only five per cent vision in the right eye and nothing in the left, and skis with guide called Jennifer Kehoe. We competed at the 2018 Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang in March 2018 where we took four medals, including a gold in the slalom, making us Great Britain’s most decorated Winter Paralympians.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
In a sense, no, I didn’t plan my career but when I was 13, I held Steve Redgrave’s medal and since then I have been determined to get one of my own.
It is regularly talked about that women are put off by sports and exercise – how can we change this?
I believe the grass roots are where they need to encourage them and let them have a choice in the sports that they do. They are more likely to carry on doing it if they enjoy it as a kid.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
Throughout my life I have had people telling me I can’t do things but my support team around me and my determination has always helped me prove I can.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
My biggest achievement is becoming Britain’s most decorated Paralympian alongside my Guide Jen by winning one gold, two silvers and a bronze at the 2018 Paralympic games.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
My family, friends and team have always encourage me to keep going and supported me thought the ups and down of Ski racing.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I give my support to a young visually impaired girl at my local primary school and help her when at Brownies (As I’m a Leader).
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
Try everything and don’t be afraid of what might come. Don’t let fear get in the way of your dreams.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
My next challenge is that Jen and I are doing a cycle race on the 21st of September. I’m not put away the skis just yet and hoping to our best possible