Australian dual Paralympic medalist, Jessica Gallagher grew up with a passion for sport, but when she was 17 she was diagnosed with a rare degenerative eye-disease which left her legally blind. Jess didn’t let her eye condition stop her from chasing her sporting dreams and went on to become a dual winter and summer paralympian, representing Australia in both Alpine Skiing and Athletics (Long Jump/Javelin). Jess is also Australia’s first female winter paralympic medalist and at the recent Sochi Winter Olympics took home a bronze medal in the giant slalom event. Jess is an inspiration to women and a proud Samsung Australia ambassador.
Photo 1- Family. Growing up I wanted to be just like my Mum. She was an all-round athlete, the captain of our local golf club, played netball and basketball and so I wanted to play every sport she did. Netball and basketball became my life.
Photo 2 – Losing my sight. At the age of 17 I was diagnosed with a rare degenerative eye disease. Leaving me legally blind and unable to continue sport at the elite level. At 19 I needed a new challenge so I went on a working holiday to Vail, Colorado and learnt to snowboard. Little did I know the impact on my life this decision would have.
Photo 3 – Helping others. Combining my love of sport and medicine I became an Osteopath, a profession where I use my hands to work diminishing the need to use my sight. A trip to Vietnam in 2012 as global ambassador for Vision 2020 Australia witnessing the work Australia is doing to eradicate avoidable blindness was life changing.
Photo 4 – Paralympic sport. I discovered Paralympic sport at the age of 21 and took up track and field but had a heartbreaking welcome after qualifying for the Beijing 2008 Paralympics I was banned for not being ‘blind enough’.
Photo 5 – A new sport. Before Beijing a chance conversation became an opportunity to learn to ski and after 150 days on skis (and vision loss enabling me to compete) I debuted for Australia at the winter Paralympics and on my 24th birthday I became Australia’s first female winter Paralympic medalist!
Photo 6 – Dual winter and summer Paralympian. Resuming track and field I won medals in Long Jump and Javelin at the World Championships in 2011, competed at the London 2012 Paralympics and recently returned with another Paralympic bronze medal from the Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympics.