Berliner TageBlatt - Siblings on skis: Bond is golden for Paralympic brothers

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Siblings on skis: Bond is golden for Paralympic brothers
Siblings on skis: Bond is golden for Paralympic brothers / Foto: © AFP

Siblings on skis: Bond is golden for Paralympic brothers

When nearly blind teenager Neil Simpson hurtles 100 kilometres (60 miles) an hour down the ski slopes at the Winter Paralympics he knows he is in safe hands -- his older brother Andrew is navigating.

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It's the younger Simpson's first Winter Paralympics but he's already made his mark in Beijing, with the help of his brother and guide Andrew, as the pair claimed Britain's first gold at the Games.

Their victory in the Super-G visually impaired event was followed days later by bronze in the Super Combined, and they are now eyeing more success in the Chinese capital.

Neil, 19, has nystagmus, a condition that causes involuntary eye movements -- as a result, his vision is blurry and severely impaired.

"I don't know any different, I've had it since birth," he told AFP.

Competing with his brother gives them an edge, Neil said.

"It really helps to have Andrew as a guide. You can be very direct, even blunt sometimes... you don't have to beat around the bush," he said.

"Obviously we grew up together, so you know what each other is thinking... usually."

The duo uses Bluetooth transceivers built into their helmets to communicate with each other during races.

Andrew, 21, said his job is to give his brother accurate and concise information.

"Generally I'll say sort of what's coming up in the course, if the hills are rolling over, getting steeper or flatter, what sort of lines we need to take through," Andrew told AFP.

They also have special code words.

"If I'm getting away from Neil a little bit we'll use the word 'feather', which just means I need to slow down slightly but not too much, because if I slow down too much, then he’ll be into the back of me," Andrew said.

The smallest mistake could be fatal to their chances of Paralympic glory or possibly result in injury.

"The trust has to be very high from both of us," Andrew said.

- Never far away -

Since arriving in the Beijing Winter Paralympic coronavirus bubble, the brothers have been inseparable.

The family support is all the more invaluable because other relatives have not been able to travel to China to watch them compete.

"We spend all the time together, especially here we're in the same room, go to meals the same time," Andrew said.

"We’re never away from each other. It means we know exactly what each other wants and needs."

Despite their close bond there can be occasional slip-ups.

"We had a problem once during training," said Andrew.

"Because it was so windy I couldn't hear Neil, and he was saying for me to tuck, but I thought he was saying slow. So I slammed on the brakes, but he wanted me to go faster."

The brothers will have a chance to add more medals to their collection on Thursday and Saturday when they compete in the alpine skiing giant slalom and slalom events.

I.Meyer--BTB