Ryding raises his game on the big stage

David Ryding gave not only himself but British Alpine Skiing a huge boost in taking 17th in the Winter Olympic Slalom. Ryding admitted … after the race that he had come into the race looking for a top 30 result and to make the flip was where he needed to be. Having started 35th, 27th after the first run was a great performance, especially when the likes of Marcel Hirscher was less than one and a half second ahead of him in ninth place. The story of the second run will go down in legend but for Ryding, the night was one that showcased just how good the man who grew up learning his trade on plastic slopes can be.

From making the flip for the second run in 27th spot, the man from Pendle, put himself in a great position to attack on the second run. Going fourth on the second run, Ryding will have probably just heard the noise as two of the first three made huge errors and their nights were over. Ryding admits that he likes the big stage; he likes to be able to show all those that have supported him in his career what he can do. This is his way of thanking them: by skiing fast.

The opening few gates were solid but then he lost a chunk of speed at the crucial killer gates set by Ante Kostelic. Talking after the race, Ryding said “I wanted to give 100% to the course and I knew I had to be sensible in places, unfortunately I messed up the hardest part but I look back and Im glad i can say I gave it my all.”

Having made the mistake, it was almost as though the pressure was off and Ryding raced the rest of the course with precision and speed. Over the next two splits his times were super impressive: A second fastest split time and the seventh fastest. It makes you think what could have been had he not made the mistake at the top. Afterwards Ryding admitted “I am pretty gutted. I made a schoolboy error really. I knew about it, I knew what to do, and I did the wrong thing. Other than that it was a really good run but it was over before I could even have a shot. It’s a really, really tough course. It’s a good course, it’s so challenging but it’s a hard course and it would have suited me.”

Ryding can be proud of what he has achieved not only under the lights at Rosa Khutor but over the last two years: A Europa Cup series win, Europa Cup race wins as well as that memorable night in Levi where he scored his first World Cup points. These were his second Olympics and it goes to show just how important all the experience is.

Slalom racing is an art. Many of the racers are specialists in the one discipline; there are some like Marcel Hirscher who are supreme in two or more but for many of the racers, Slalom is something that requires days of endless drills geared just for Slalom. And of these specialists, how many can say they were the ones that prepared their own skis? Ryding is one of the few that does his own skis. While other racers are relaxing and getting mentally ready for the race the following day, Ryding can be found in the ski room preparing his Fischer skis. While he does acknowledge that he is getting better at this art, it is something he would like to hand over to a specialist but this all costs money.

As racers crashed out, hopes for a top fifteen result grew with each racer going out. A top fifteen result would have given Ryding some vital World Cup Start List points that would have helped him on the World Cup races. These points are what decide where a racer starts on the World Cup. They do not count towards the World Cup but a top fifteen result would have eased him closer to starting in the elite top 30 and better course conditions.

Support is getting better for Ryding and others on the GB Team but it is a hard graft for a small nation that is having to fight for exposure against other sports. Like Alain Baxter before him, and Chemmy Alcott recently, Ryding is a superb ambassador for Team BSS, long may his career go on!

Asked if his best years are ahead of him and Ryding responded: “100 per cent. I didn’t start [the sport] until really late. I haven’t come that good until the last few years. My body feels great, a lot of people have got aches and pains but I’m in great shape thanks to the physical training I’ve been doing.
I’ve got plenty of years in me and plenty more years to improve.”

Ryding summed up his Olympic experience: “I skied great apart from 2 gates but thats the risk I decided to take and I’m chuffed with 17th position! I guess it will be a case of what if, but thats sport and there will be more chances to bring some great results.”