Our 100-Kilometre-An-Hour Inspiration: Jess Gallagher, Paralympic Medallist - Hope 103.2

Our 100-Kilometre-An-Hour Inspiration: Jess Gallagher, Paralympic Medallist

Paralympic medallist Jess Gallagher, who snow-skis and cycles blind, is urging Aussies to get their eyesight checked, and for good reason.

By Clare BruceFriday 14 Oct 2016Hope BreakfastGuests and ArtistsReading Time: 3 minutes

Listen: History-making Paralympian Jess Gallagher chats to Duncan. Image credit: Facebook

Hurtling along at 100 kilometres an hour downhill on snow – or at 50 kph on skinny wheels in a sloping velodrome – are terrifying thoughts for most people. But imagine doing it practically blind.

Paralympian Jess Gallagher, who has lost 90 percent of her sight to an incurable disease, has done both, winning bronze at Rio for the tandem 1-kilometre time trial, and at Vancouver and Sochi for the Alpine skiing slalom and giant slalom races.

Jess isn’t just an elite skier and track-cyclist, but a long jumper and javelinist too, and her Rio medal made her the first Australian to win medals in both a winter and summer Games. It’s never been done before by a Paralympian, or, for that matter an Olympian.

Still finding it hard to believe I have just become the first Australian athlete to medal at a summer AND winter Paralympics or Olympics. I am so incredibly proud to have fulfilled this dream, to have overcome the unqie challenges I’ve faced in transitioning between alpine skiing, track cycling and athletics, the ups and downs along the way and the incredible people who have been a part of this journey in helping me achieve this. Thank you to everyone for their incredible support and congratulations, it’s an honour to wear the green and gold and be a #proudparalympian @ausparalympics @paralympics ? Read more ‘Aussies Stunning Piece Of History’ http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/olympics-2016/paralympics-jessica-gallagher-becomes-first-australian-to-medal-at-both-summer-and-winter-games/news-story/721b9bcc5f42e2d6e2064621401159ab

A photo posted by Jessica Gallagher (@jessgallagher86) on

Cycling & Skiing Blind, “A Little Crazy”

In a chat with Hope 103.2’s Duncan Robinson, Jess admitted the risky business of skiing and cycling blind is “a little crazy”.

For skiing, it’s her guide who helps her ‘see’ the mountain ahead of her.

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“My ‘adaptive technology’ that I use is a human being,” she said. “My guide skis 7 to 10 metres in front of me. We wear headsets, so we have ear pieces inside our helmets and a little microphone in front of our mouth, and my guide’s job is to basically act as my eyesight as we’re going down the mountain. He or she will give me verbal feedback and they’ll also be wearing a brightly coloured vest, so that I can see them a little bit as well.”

“Don’t Take Your Sight For Granted” Says Jess

Young woman struggling to read

Above: If you’re hunched over like this when you read, it’s time for an eye checkup!

For World Sight Day, on October 13, Jess is drawing attention to eye health and the need for Australians to get their sight checked. She pointed out that by 2020, around 100,000 Australians over 40 will go blind if action isn’t taken now, and said that many of us take our sight for granted.

“When I was 17 I lost over 90 percent of my eyesight to an incurable eye disease,” Jess said, “but over 90 percent of the vision loss that we’re seeing today is actually preventable.”

Many people don’t go to the doctor for a checkup unless they are in pain, but often eye diseases ‘sneak up’ painlessly.

She encouraged people to support World Sight Day and the Snap-For-Sight campaign run by Vision 20-20 Australia. The campaign encourages people to photograph something that they would greatly miss seeing if they lost their eyesight, then post it on social media with the hashtag #SnapForSight.

Jess also urged people to get their eyes tested.

“It’s really quick, it’s easy, it’s simple to make a booking, and there are a significant amount of Australians who have deteriorated eyesight that actually could’ve been prevented, or is actually curable.”

Many people don’t go to the doctor for a checkup unless they are in pain, but often eye diseases ‘sneak up’ painlessly.