Sighted Guide and Paralympic & World Para Champion, Jennifer Kehoe MBE, join the BRIT family
We are delighted that Jen has joined our BRIT Ambassador family.
Jen is a former Para-Alpine Ski Guide for Visually Impaired Athletes with Para Snowsports GB and GB Snowsport. Between 2015 and 2021, Jen competed with visually impaired athlete Menna Fitzpatrick MBE, as her sighted guide. Menna and Jen are Great Britain’s most decorated Winter Paralympians. They are the first British athletes to win an Overall World Cup Crystal Cup, be crowned World Champions and win both Paralympic and World Para titles. They won over 20 Gold and Silver medals.
“As a former student at Exeter University, and through my experience working with young elite athletes at GB Snowsport, I am aware that there has been a significant increase in the number of students and young adults experiencing mental health challenges. It is deeply concerning that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on the lives of young adults with existing mental health difficulties and the mental and emotional health of many new and returning students.
The British Inspiration Trust (BRIT) Vision is to support young adult and student mental health throughout the UK. BRIT have evolved to become a collaborative charity and are striving to unite the charity, education and sport sectors through their annual BRIT Challenge.
The BRIT Challenge is an inclusive feel-good February fundraiser that has been designed to enable students and staff of all abilities to take part wherever they are (at home or on campus) and feel connected and part of a team. I hope every UK university, college, specialist college and Students’ Union enters teams in the BRIT Challenge and encourages their students and staff to participate. If every university and college takes part, the UK-wide impact, and positive engagement with students, could be extraordinary.
I am delighted to be joining the BRIT Ambassador family and will do all I can to encourage my fellow Paralympic and Olympic Snowsport athletes to join me as BRIT Ambassadors, champion the BRIT Challenge, destigmatise mental health and champion equality, diversity and inclusion. By uniting as elite athletes, together we can encourage our chosen universities and colleges to take on the BRIT Challenge and support the mental health and fitness of students and young adults throughout the UK.
I would be thrilled to encourage students and staff at the University of Exeter, should they enter teams in the BRIT Challenge, and wish every university and college the very best of luck with their distance and fundraising targets.”
Jennifer Kehoe MBE
Sighted Guide and Paralympic & World Para Champion
Jen was educated at Bournemouth School for Girls and St Peters College, Bournemouth, before completing her Bachelor’s Degree in French with Economics at the University of Exeter between 2002 and 2006.
After training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, Jen commissioned into the Royal Engineers and served in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces between 2009 and 2014.
Between 2013 and 2017, Jen was the Performance Manager with the Armed Forces Para-Snowsport Team, where she was responsible for the planning and delivery of a performance-focussed winter sports training and competition programme for wounded service personnel.
Between 2013 and 2021, Jen wasa Para-Alpine Ski Guide for Visually Impaired Athletes with Para Snowsports GB and GB Snowsport.
Visually impaired (VI) para-alpine athletes race with a sighted guide who skis in front of them down the course. There are three categories: B1 – the athlete has minimal or no vision; B2 – the athlete has less than 5% vision in both eyes, and B3 – the athlete has less than 10% vision in both eyes. VI athletes compete in the five alpine disciplines of Slalom, Giant Slalom, Super G, Super Combined and Downhill.
During competitions, the VI athlete skis 4-5 metres behind the guide, following the line of the skis and listening to instructions given as they race down the course. The guide wears an orange hi-visibility jacket to help the athlete see the guide, and they communicate via Bluetooth headsets attached to their helmets. Good communication and trust is critical. VI teams develop a specific command lexicon to use when they train and compete. The guide describes changes in the terrain, snow conditions, rhythm or combinations of gates during a race, while the athlete communicates distance and location in relation to the gates back to the guide as they go through the course, reaching speeds of over 100kph.
In 2014, Jen started her guiding skiing with Paralympian Millie Knight, however a serious injury prevented her from competing at the Sochi Winter Paralympic Games.
Jen paired up with Menna Fitzpatrick in 2015. Along with over 20 Gold and Silver medals, Menna and Jen made history in 2016 as the first ever British athletes to win an Overall World Cup Crystal Globe and be crowned World Cup Champions. They also won Gold in the Overall Giant Slalom that season, as well as winning Silver in the Super-G World Cup, Bronze in the Downhill World Cup and Bronze in the Slalom World Cup.
In 2017, Menna and Jen took a Bronze in the Giant Slalom at the World Para Alpine Skiing Championships. This was despite Menna suffering a broken hand in a super-G training accident in 2016, ahead of the 2016/7 season, that kept her off the snow for two months and requiring her to have surgery. That same year, they also won Silver in the Slalom and Bronze in the Super-G at the World Para Alpine Skiing World Cup
In 2018, Menna and Jen exceeded expectations at the Winter Paralympic Games in South Korea. They won Gold in the Slalom, Silver in the Super Combined, Silver in the Giant Slalom and Bronze in the Super-G. That same year, they won the World Cup title for Super-G.
At the 2019 World Para Alpine Skiing Championships, Menna and Jen took five medals, securing Bronze in the Giant Slalom and Silver in the Slalom, before winning Gold in the Downhill, becoming the first British skiers to win both Paralympic and World Para titles. They then took a second Gold in the Super-G before rounding off their championships with a second Silver in the Combined.
Since 2013, Jen has volunteered as the Performance Manager with the Combined Services Disabled Ski Team (CSDST). CSDST is a charitable organisation open to any serving or retired member of the Armed Forces with a permanent disability sustained through action on operations, illness or accident; and may have occurred after them leaving the services. CSDST aims to improve the individual skill of every athlete who joins the team through high quality coaching through a process which encourages and promotes the raw talent of near beginners, as well as providing high level performance coaching up to International level. CSDST’s ultimate aim is to feed athletes into the British Disabled Ski Team (BDST) at the appropriate moment; with the ultimate goal of participation in Paralympic events.
In August 2021, after 7 glorious and successful years skiing together, Jen and Menna were sad to announce that they will not be defending their title together at the next Paralympic Games.
Jen and Menna had been working hard to find a way to enable them to train and compete together but they had encountered too many challenges out of their control. Jen made the difficult decision to retire from elite sport to resume her career in the British Army, while Menna will continue to compete for GB in Para-alpine skiing with a new guide. Jen and Menna said;
“Our incredible partnership and friendship started in 2015, and we could not have dreamt of what the future held for us; achievements include winning 6 Overall World Cup Crystal Globes, becoming 2 x World Champions, Paralympic Champions and most decorated Winter Paralympian, awarded MBEs, presenting a BAFTA and many, many more incredible opportunities. The most rewarding has been and will continue to be sharing our story with others and inspiring young people to dream big. We would like to send a HUGE ‘thank you’ to all our wonderful friends, family, coaches, sponsors and supporters who believed in us and supported us both on this incredible journey. We would also like to thank the British Army and all the individuals who have helped us for their longstanding and continued support. We could not have done it without you all. We are immensely proud of what we have achieved together and we will continue to support each other on our respective journeys towards the next Paralympics and in the British Army. We will continue to raise the profile of women’s and disability sport and hope to continue inspiring others to follow in our footsteps and chase their dreams."
For more information on British Para Skiing, please visit the GB Snowsport website.