Visually impaired skier Millie Knight puts crashes, concussions in rearview mirror to win Paralympic bronze

Millie Knight of Team Great Britain competes in the Women's Downhill Vision Impaired at Yanqing National Alpine Skiing Centre during Day One of the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics.
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British para alpine skier Millie Knight came into her third Paralympic Games not expecting to win a single medal despite capturing three in 2018 and arriving in Beijing as the reigning World Cup Super-G title holder.

But she proved herself wrong on Saturday, teaming with guide Brett Wild to collect Great Britain’s first medal of the Games with a bronze in the women’s visually impaired downhill at Yanqing National Alpine Center. Slovakia’s Henrieta Farkasova won her third consecutive gold medal in the event with a time of 1:19.50, while China’s Zhu Daqing took silver with a time of 1:21.75 in her Paralympic debut.

“I still can’t believe it! We genuinely believed we wouldn’t win any medals at these Games…what a crazy moment this is!” wrote Knight in an Instagram post on Saturday, hinting at the struggles and injuries that affected not only her body but also her psyche since the last Paralympics.

“This bronze is something very special,” Knight told media after the race. “It ranks above our silver four years ago in PyeongChang. We have gone through some tough things, and it has changed us.”

The 23-year-old Knight has suffered multiple concussions over the last five years beginning with back-to-back crashes in the finish area at the 2017 World Championships and four weeks later at a World Cup downhill in PyeongChang. Both times, she crossed the finish line at full speed, smacking into the barriers. But her crash in South Korea was the most severe, flipping her three times and dislocating her jaw.

Despite winning two silver medals (downhill, super-G) and a bronze (slalom) at the 2018 Paralympics, she admitted the injuries affected her performance there. She took a break from competition during the 2018-19 season and says she considered walking away all together, but she returned to action the following season.

“The concussions were awful,” she recalled. “I’d much rather lose more sight than go through a concussion again. The recovery was so slow and so painful, and it knocked so much of my confidence, and I just had so much fear that I’d never be able to just stand in the start again.”

MORE WINTER PARALYMPICS COVERAGE: Oksana Masters wins biathlon gold to open 2022 Winter Paralympics

In February 2021, Knight crashed again at a World Cup in Austria, sustaining a concussion and dislocating her jaw, but she was skiing again five months later. She credits extra focus on her mental training over the last few years, where she’s worked closely with Team GB’s sports psychologist Kelley Fay.

“At the start I was just thinking, ‘Find the seconds, do anything you can do to go faster, it doesn’t matter if you’re scared, keep going,'” said Knight, who became the youngest British athlete to compete at the Paralympic Winter Games in 2014 when she was just 15.

“Crossing the line with a smile on my face was our No. 1 goal. We genuinely didn’t believe we were at the level that would get us a medal. And now we are here, the bronze medalists.”

The medal was just as emotional for Wild, a former ski racer for Scotland who works full time as a submariner for the Royal Navy. He’s been released from service the past few years to guide Knight.

“It’s been so much time on snow, working on building up this trust in this relationship,” said Wild. “We know each other inside and out on the snow. I can tell at breakfast what Millie is feeling – whether it’s going to be a good day or bad day by the way she breathes in the mic when we’re skiing. As a team, we work so well together and I’m unbelievably proud of this today because I know how scary that was for Millie.”

For Farkasova, winning gold – her 10th Paralympics gold and 13th medal overall – also marked a triumph over her own recent obstacles, which included a guide change just one month before Beijing.

“My guide had an injury one month ago at the world championships and I needed to find a new guide,” she told media after the race. “Martin (Motyka) is very good, and I am happy I can race with him.”

The 35-year-old Slovakian racer has also battled back from her own health challenges the last few years after undergoing three surgeries since injuring her knee at the 2019 World Championships.

“It was very hard for me, very painful,” she said. “But now I am back. I am first and it feels very good. I am happy.”

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Justine Wong-Orantes’ atypical path to becoming one of the best liberos in the world

Justine Wong-Orantes hits the ball in the women's semi-final volleyball match between USA and Serbia during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
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It’s been 20 years since the same nation held both the Olympic and world volleyball titles at the same time, but libero Justine Wong-Orantes is looking to help lead Team USA accomplish that very feat at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championships in the Netherlands and Poland. Competition began on Friday and the U.S. is currently 2-0 after group play wins against Kazakhstan and Canada.

“We’re trying to win, for sure,” Wong-Orantes told On Her Turf. “I think, especially with the new turn of the program and the new year of the quad, we just have a really nice blend of veterans and also newcomers on the team.”

The 14-woman roster for Team USA, which is ranked No. 1 in the world and won its first Olympic title last summer, features six players from that gold-medal-winning team. And while Wong-Orantes is among the 2021 U.S. Olympic team veterans, she’s still a relative newcomer to international play.

The Southern California native enjoyed a notable junior career – she was 12 when she became the youngest female to ever earn an AAA rating in beach volleyball – and was a standout collegian at Nebraska, where she was a member of the 2015 NCAA championship team. But Wong-Orantes followed a different path upon graduation, initially choosing not to go overseas to play professionally.

While she was first selected for the U.S. national team in 2016 and played a handful of international tournaments in the following years, it wasn’t until she started playing professionally in Germany in 2019 that she saw the potential to elevate her position on the roster. In particular, the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics gave her an additional year of overseas experience, which she calls “a blessing in disguise.”

“I just felt like I was still in that developmental stage,” she said. “And a whole year postponement allowed me to go overseas and really get all the touches, all the repetitions, and just kind of expose myself to international volleyball another year. So I was, in hindsight, pretty thankful for that COVID season because I got an extra year under my belt, and I think that just gave me a ton of confidence.”

Ahead of the Olympics, Wong-Orantes earned “best libero” honors at the 2021 FIVB Volleyball National League in Rimini, Italy, which helped secure her spot on the Olympic roster. In Tokyo, she followed up with another standout performance and was named best libero of the Olympic tournament.

As to how the Wong-Orantes transformed into one of the world’s top liberos, she points to her background as a beach volleyball player. She began competing at age 8, and her first partner was Sara Hughes, a star on the AVP Pro Tour who also won two NCAA titles with USC.

“I think having that background and just the court awareness that beach volleyball forces you to have allowed me to really have a good read on the game,” said Wong-Orantes. “I think that’s what makes a great libero is just reading and always being reactive towards the ball.”

Wong-Orantes also credits the assistance of mental coach Sue Enquist, a former UCLA softball coach and U.S. national team coach, who now helps teams work on their culture and relationships. Enquist began working with the U.S. volleyball team during the pandemic and has continued in her role ever since.

“We just worked on a lot of stuff within ourselves, within our program, how to communicate with each other off the court, and I think that honestly propelled us into such a high, high level with how we worked with each other, and then that transferred onto the court,” explained Wong-Orantes, who noted the team has Enquist on speed dial while at the World Championship. “I really commend Sue. I just really give a lot of praise to her because I think our culture was never bad, but I think [she] just transformed into a different level.”

2022-09-26 - FIVB Volleyball Womens World Championship 2022 - Day 4
ARNHEM, NETHERLANDS – Justine Wong-Orantes (far right) poses for a photo with her U.S. teammates after defeating Canada at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship on September 26, 2022. (Photo by Rene Nijhuis/Orange Pictures/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Wong-Orantes said she and her U.S. teammates are on their toes for the world championships, which features twice as many teams (24) as the Olympics and a “more grueling” format.

“It’s going to be a long tournament, and I think we’re really going to need all 14 of us that are here. I’m pretty certain that, at any given moment, someone’s going to be called on and someone’s going to need to step up in big moments.”

2022 Ascendant LPGA: How to watch, who’s playing in Texas’s annual signature event

Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand hits her second shot on the 16th hole during the final round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
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The LPGA make its annual stop in The Colony, Texas, this week for the 10th edition of the Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America, where Thailand’s 19-year-old rookie Atthaya Thitikul comes in hot off her second career win and second playoff victory this season at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

Leading the 132-player field at Old American Golf Club, located at Golf Clubs at The Tribute, are Texas residents and past champions Cheyenne Knight and Angela Stanford. They’ll compete for the $1.7 million prize purse alongside major champions Nelly KordaLydia Ko and Brooke Henderson. Last year’s Ascendant LPGA champion, world No. 1 Jin Young Ko, will not be defending her title after announcing earlier this month she would be missing several weeks due to a nagging wrist injury.

This past weekend in Arkansas, Thitikul took the lead with a 10-under 61 in the second round and shot 68 in the final round to finish regulation tied with Danielle Kang at 17-under 196. Thitikul, who won the JTBC Classic in March in a two-hole playoff vs. Nanna Koerstz Madsen, drained an 8-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to secure the win over Kang.

How to watch the 2022 Ascendant LPGA 

Coverage of the 2022 Ascendant LPGA from Old American Golf Club in The Colony, Texas, can be found on Golf Channel, with streaming options available any time on any mobile device and online through and the NBC Sports app.

  • Thursday, Sept. 29: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Friday, Sept. 30: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Saturday, Oct. 1: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Sunday, Oct. 2: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel

Who’s playing in the 2022 Ascendant LPGA

Six of the top 10 players in the Rolex World Rankings are among the field in Texas, including:

  • No. 2 Nelly Korda
  • No. 4 Lydia Ko
  • No. 5 Atthaya Thitikul
  • No. 6 Brooke Henderson
  • No. 7 Lexi Thompson
  • No. 10 Nasa Hataoka

A number of local Texans also are in the tournament, headlined by past champions, Angela Stanford (2020) and Cheyenne Knight (2019), and two junior champions of the Volunteers of America Classic Girls Championship, who are playing on a sponsor exemption: Yunxuan (Michelle) Zhang (2022), a freshman at SMU, and Avery Zweig (2021), a high school sophomore from McKinney, Texas.

Past five champions of The Ascendant LPGA

2021 Jin Young Ko (South Korea) 16-under 268 1 stroke Matilda Castren
2020 Angela Stanford (USA) 7-under 277 2 strokes So Yeon Ryu, Inbee Park, Yealimi Noh
2019 Cheyenne Knight (USA) 18-under 266 2 strokes Brittany Altomare, Jaye Marie Green
2018 Sung Hyun Park (South Korea) 11-under 131 1 stroke Lindy Duncan
2017 Haru Nomura (Japan) 3-under 281 Playoff Christie Kerr

Last time at The Ascendant LPGA

South Korea’s Jin Young Ko carded a final-round 69 to maintain her 54-hole lead at Old American Golf Club and held on for a one stroke win at the 2021 Volunteers of America Classic, her eighth career LPGA tour title. Ko finished regulation at 16-under 268, edging Finland’s Matilda Castren by one stroke.

It kicked off a five-win season for Ko, who had just lost her No. 1 ranking to Nelly Korda the week prior after holding the top spot for 100 straight weeks. She regained the No. 1 ranking back in October 2021, after earning her fourth win in seven starts at the BMW Ladies Championship.

More about Old American Golf Club

Opened in 2010, the Old American Golf Club is one of two clubs at The Tribute, a lakefront resort community on Lewisville Lake in The Colony, Texas. Designed by Tripp Davis and 12-time PGA Tour winner Justin Leonard, Old American plays as a Par 71 and stretches to 6,475 yards on the tournament scorecard.