Heather Mills, the former wife of Sir Paul McCartney, has quit the Paralympic qualifiers in Austria, after getting into a row over the ski boot she was using. The 45-year-old had been doing well as she was all set to qualify for the Sochi Winter games in 2014. Hopes were high for her as she had already won a silver medal in the World Cup. Now it would seem she has abandoned her dream of Paralympic glory. The British Paralympic team say they are “saddened” by her withdrawal.
The dispute occurred when Heather was told she had the wrong equipment. Her specially adapted boot had not been approved by the IPC and may have made her liable for disqualification. The person relaying this information was Sylvana Mestre, head of the Paralympic alpine skiing committee. According to several witnesses, Ms Mills reacted very badly to the news and flew into a rage. She then reportedly verbally and physically attacked the official.
In what has been described as a “wild tantrum” Heather Mills turned on Sylvana Mestre and ranted, “You don’t know who I am. I will make your life miserable.” She is said to have threatened to have her removed from her position in the IPC, to have lunged at her, and called her a bitch.
The Slovakian coach, Branislav Mazgut, was one of those on the scene. He said that Heather Mills was very red in the face, shouting, and in her anger, she went to push at Mestre. Sylvana Mestre pleased, “Please don’t touch me.”
It was a pretty big bust-up over a boot, and Heather Mills then stormed off and quit the Paralympics altogether.
The aggressive behaviour is said to have left Ms Mestre “extremely shocked and upset.” Craig Spence, who is head of communications for the IPC, lamented “This disgraceful outburst is not what we expect from any athletes competing in our competitions and will not be tolerated.” He also said, “Para-athletes are role models and an inspiration to billions around the world.” The profile of the paralympic movement was considered raised after the huge success of the London 2012 Olympics, and such an incident is clearly unwelcome.
The coach for Heather Mills has now claimed that there was a vendetta against her. The IPC insist that “there can be no excuse” for the rage and that Sylvana Mestre is a “highly respected and experienced official within the Paralympic movement.” They are now considering taking disciplinary action, with the potential for a fine.
Heather Mills is no stranger to controversy, her marriage and her divorce from Sir Paul were both headline news. She was a star in the TV series Dancing on Ice, and does a lot of work for charity, but her reputation is susceptible to many ups and downs. Her family are said to be very sorry that all her “hard work, injury and the struggles to overcome them” has led to this resignation, over a “bureaucratic decision.”
This is a sentiment echoed by the British Disabled Ski team who would have preferred she had “carried on working with us to resolve this.”
That would appear to be unlikely now. Heather Mills has quit the Paralympics over this row and thrown away her chance of a medal over a bust-up about a boot.
By Kate Henderson