The English Alpine Ski Championships kicked off in style on Valentine’s Day in Bormio, with a record number of entries and some impressive skiing in the FIS National Junior Slalom and Under 16 & Under 14 Giant Slalom.  

409 athletes, the most ever entries at an English Alpine Championships, descended on Bormio yesterday for the opening parade, and today began racing under cloudy skies with light snow falling for most of the day.

In the FIS NJR Slalom, in the men’s Under 21 category Oliver Davies from Evolution took victory from Laurie Taylor (British Ski Academy), with Ollie Eaton (Ambition Racing) coming home third. For the Under 21 women, Scottish athlete Ella Still (Ambition Racing) claimed the top spot with compatriot Nicole Ritchie from Orsatus taking second and Amber Buckland from BSA in third.

Oliver Davies said: “I wasn’t too happy with the first run actually. I made a little mistake on the flat which cost me, but the second was a lot better and it was good skiing. The top section was tough, and it was a hard course anyway, but a fun one. Looking towards the rest of the week this definitely fills me with confidence. I’m happy finishing as the top Brit. We hardly ever race against each other; the English and British Champs are the only times we really meet properly so they are the races to win and I’m very happy.

Ella Still said: “It’s really cool to have done so well. There were good courses set up on both runs and I’m really happy with how I skied them. It felt good coming down there today, I’ve been working on quite a lot in training and it’s starting to come together for me now which is very satisfying. Coming top of all the Brits here is a great result. It’s always good to start off with a good first day and hopefully I can carry my momentum through now.”

Meanwhile, another Scot, Fraser Middleton (Ambition Racing), took the win in the men’s Under 18 race,, with Rory Farren from BSA in second spot. Toby Deighton, also from Ambition Racing was third.  For the Under 18 women, Freya Eaton from Ambition took the win, with Scottish racer Genevieve Baird from EDEP in second and Lucinda Dilworth from British Ski Academy in third.

Rory Farren said: “It was a good ski today overall. It’s definitely a confidence booster for the slalom tomorrow and then hopefully the GS and the Super-G will be good as well. Confidence is really important in skiing; if you have a bad week heading into a set of races it can be pretty daunting and it’s easy to get mentally out of the game. So it’s good to get all that out of my head and I’m looking to win most of the Under 18 races from here on in this week. There’s a few other very good guys here so it will be a challenge but I’m looking forward to it.”

Freya Eaton said: “I’m pretty happy, it’s definitely a good way to start off the week for me. The first run went pretty well, a lot better than I’ve actually been skiing in training, and then the second wasn’t so good but I’m sure my coach will go through that with me. It’s my second year at Under 18 level so I’m really looking to push on with my results this week and this is a good first step. I’ve still got the slalom tomorrow and two GS races to come so hopefully I can  keep improving as the week goes on.”

Over on the Stella Alpina piste, at the heart of the Bormio ski area, the younger athletes tackled the Under 16 and Under 14 Giant Slalom in hugely challenging and different conditions. Many of the racers had clear visibility but at times some racers had next to nothing, affecting their confidence. Taking victory for the boys in the Under 16 category was Charlie Leach from Ambition Racing, with Charles Rankin from British Ski Academy in second and Oscar McCall in third. For the Under 16 girls, Abigail Bruce from Ambition Racing took

Taking victory for the boys in the Under 16 category was Charlie Leach from Ambition Racing, with Charles Rankin from British Ski Academy in second and Oscar McCall in third. For the Under 16 girls, Abigail Bruce from Ambition Racing took top spot, with teammate Sarah Woodward in second after she slipped on her inside near the top of the second run. Alicja Krahelski from EDEP/Telford took third, making up one spot in the second run.

Abigail Bruce said: “I have been working so hard, and I have not had a great season, so today was incredible. For me it was trying to get in the right mind-set and having the right people around you supporting you. Winning a race at the English Championships means so much. Last time I was here I won it and I have been injured ever since and I have been trying to get back here ever since. I am so happy!”

Charlie Leach said: “I am really pleased with a GS win. It is my first ever podium and I am in the lower part of the age group so to take the win is great. I was 5th on the first run, and I am not sure how, but I managed to come first! On the second run I just felt really fast. GS is my favourite discipline and I am not really a slalom specialist. I would hope to do well in the Super G as well.”

In the Under 14 category, for the boys Jack Cunningham from Evolution put in two stunning runs to take the win from Joseph Christey (British Ski Academy) and Ambition Racing’s Oliver Pollitt. For the girls, Daisi Daniels from British Ski Academy was on fire, putting in two quick runs to take the title, with Sophie Foster from Ambition Racing in second place and Nadine Hugec of Evolution stealing third.

Jack Cunningham said: “I am really happy with the result. I have been training hard for the past few weeks and really concentrating on building my speed. I have been doing technically well, but I just need to work on getting a bit faster! I was happy with my GS result, but I am really looking forward to the Super G – I love the speed! I am really excited. The English Champs offers good races and good hills, particularly getting the chance to race two Super Gs. I have been skiing since I was young, but last season was my first season of racing, so things are going well.”

Daisi Daniels said: “I am very happy with my win. It was a tough field and all the other racers skied well and tried really hard. For me, today was a good result. First run I came out of the gate and my skis just flew. I felt fast on both runs, although my stance was a bit wide on the second run, but I will work on that in training. It was a bit foggy up there, but it didn’t really bother me.”

Picture: Ireland’s Kieran Norris was first out of the gate for the Men, leading a strong international contingent.

More action shots are on www.racer-ready.ifp3.com