Until Dave Ryding scored his fantastic result in Levi last November, Ed Drake had been the last British male to score World Cup points. Drake placed 26th in the Super Combined in Chamonix in January 2011 and this was hoped it would be the spring board to bigger and better things. Injury and loss of form took its toll and over two years later, Drake is now engrossed on a new direction as he takes on the Ski Cross World. Drake has not left behind the alpine world totally and has taken part in a number of races this summer, ‘just for fun’ he stresses with a big smile! Racer Ready caught up with Drake a few days before he headed off to Australia to train with the Australian Ski Cross team. Drake is determined to make the best of this opportunity as he gears up to the 2013 – 2014 season, a season that includes the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.
Asked how it felt to be back in the Alpine …set up as he helped out with the Evolution Summer Camp with Level Gloves and Rossignol at The Snow Centre at Hemel, Drake admitted that ‘it was fun, it was nice and it keeps me busy. It is nice to be involved with the kids and still be a part of British skiing.’Â
As we sat talking, the subject of funding came up fairly quickly into the conversation. Like many winter sport athletes, Drake has returned to his roots in terms of running coaching sessions for Master at Hemel. The courses have been popular and attracted good numbers. Drake feels that this is a sign of the times on terms of the athletes needing to look at alternative methods of funding yet it also raises his profile amongst the older generation of racers. Drake has been running races at Hemel since prior to the Vancouver Olympics as a way to raise money. It was not all about making hard cash but about raising his profile. Others have now followed this route.
Drake is quite forthright in his thoughts behind this route of funding as with the governing body not having the resources to fund all the programmes it would like to, the athletes have got to get out and do the fundraising themselves. Drake continues: “Yes they are trying to make money out of things but they are also raising their profile. If you are trying to get Â£20,000 worth of sponsorship, people need to know who you are before you go into that meeting.”
Despite now being a ski cross athlete, how does Drake feel of what the young athletes he was training on the camp, think? “It was quite funny, one of the boys in one of the groups that I was training said ‘Oh you are that Ed Drake that went to the Olympics?’ He was like seriously, ‘You are that one?’ It was quite funny but it is always nice that people know who you are.” Despite the jovial nature that surrounds Drake, he knows that he has worked hard for the success that he has had. From his early days training and being guided by Malcolm Erskine at the British Ski Academy, Drake has focussed hard on getting where he is. “We are now not just skiers but also PR agents, an after dinner speaker, a coach. Before you just had to be a ski racer. You just had to do what you are good at. This is a full time job.” Drake looks after his own sponsorship searching as well as his fitness and all the rest of the things he needs to do to be a successful athlete.
Drake went to Vancouver as part of a four man British team in Alpine. he has now crossed over to Ski Cross and is busy developing a Ski Cross event at Hemel on bank holiday Monday (August 26). This is an “event to get people interested in Ski Cross,” he explains. “It is about giving people the opportunity to come and have a go.” Drake understands the difficulty in people having a go at Ski Cross and so by putting this event on, ho hopes more people will have a go. The buzz from Vancouver and the publics thrill at watching the gladiatorial sport of Ski Cross, thrills Drake as well.
The summer is all about getting things ready for the winter. Drake would love to go up to Manchester for the inaugural British Indoor Ski Cross Championships at the end of September when he gets back from Australia, but it all depends on what else is going on for him: Raising money is more important for him at this stage of the year.
While Drake will spend time with the Australian team practicing areas of ski cross like the starts, track craft and some of the terrain changes, the jumps and technical gliding are areas that he feels he came help those he is training with.
“My goal for this season is the Olympics,” Drake freely admits. Already an Olympian, Drake knows that this cannot be taken away from him. He would dearly love to go to the Olympics in a second sport but knows that the BOA criteria (three top 32 finishes in the World Cup) will be tough but he will not be going there just to ski. last season he was close to making the cut for the knock out stages of the events ‘without any training and my thumb in a caste.’ Drake is realistic and determined and has goals in his head that he feels he can achieve. “I believe I have got what it takes to be mixing it with the best,” he emphasises.
Drake is enjoying the change in discipline and the change that this has brought to his fitness regime. Ski cross sees his doing a lot broader range of sport with more emphasis on reaction training. “I have to think a lot more on my feet,” he admits while also “hitting the park so that I am comfortable in the air, something I am.” However, Drake has had to learn a slightly different style of jump as ski cross has more kicker style jumps than alpine had.
Things are falling into place for Drake as he approaches his first full season of Ski Cross. The determination and focus is there. Having felt a little lost as his alpine career fell apart, he now admits that he wishes he had made the switch earlier: “It is the best fun racing I have had in a long time,” he declares. “The last few years have been a struggle mentally, financially and physically. I have not enjoyed racing like this since before the Olympics… I am itching to get my skis back on again,” he adds.
With support from Atomic, Kandahar and The Snow Centre plus others, 27 year old Drake is getting back to where he knows he can get to.