Masters Racing – Ffyona Speed interviews Nigel Greenfield

At last weekend’s Club National Race in Southampton, Ffyona Speed caught up with Nigel Greenfield who gave his views on current Master’s Racing and how the season has been this year as well as what is planned for Master’s racing in the upcoming season. 

The first question posed to Nigel was about his current thoughts on Master’s racing and what the Masters are currently getting up to. Nigel said, “At the moment, it’s really thriving within Master’s Racing and there seems to be more and more people who have never raced before, such as parents and coaches, who are actually giving it a go which is great for ski racing. About two years ago we formed the British Master’s Ski Club with the aim of bringing in all the aspects of Masters Racing together: alpine and indoor ski racing as well as dry slope racing. This was because there was always a divide between the three of them so the idea of forming the British Master’s Ski Club was to bring them all together in the hope that the more Masters we can get entering, the better. Today, we had a competitor who had never raced before. She’d done a little bit of training and she was terrified, but she’s made all three runs so she’s thinking of joining the Masters Ski Club as well. I think it’s worth it and if it helps you improve as well, absolutely, it’s great.”

Nigel then began to fill me in on the previous season and how the current season is going for Masters Racing. “For Masters, the alpine season was probably our best season. We won, in total, about twenty six medals throughout the Fis Masters Cup, which is the World Cup of Masters Racing. We had one of our Masters finish third in the slalom at the World Criterium, which is the World Championships for Masters, and she was over the moon. We’ve also had two of our female racers finish fourth and one finishing in fifth. Our male Masters racers placed seventh, eleventh and nineteenth and that’s throughout the world which is really good. We are now also as a nation in Masters really respected by the other countries, so I feel it’s been a good season and I think the summer season will be good too. At Landgraaf last week, the Masters entry was one of the biggest entries in the categories which was great and I think summer racing will push that on. So I’d say our season has been great.”

The next question we discussed was about Nigel’s opinion on how the British Masters Racing compares to other countries in terms of moral and team support. His response was interesting saying, “Our moral is probably the best. We’re not as good as the other countries at ski racing, but I’d say our moral is the best. I base a lot of our training in France and the head coach of the ESF there has quite often said ‘It’s amazing the camaraderie and moral between you all is just second to none.’ I mean, for example, if a couple of us are going up on the pommer to do a GS and someone wipes out, you’ll see a lot of us get off the pommer to go and help. Whereas a lot of other countries carry on up. The ESF coach said he’d never seen anything like that before but that’s what we’re like, we all help each other out and we’re a team. We are very focused in the start area and the gate but in-between we like to have a bit of fun and socialise because that’s what it’s all about as well as racing. So our moral is great!”

So where does Nigel plan to take future Masters racing and what are their aspirations? “Well, the idea behind the British Masters Ski Club is to join all three areas of Masters Racing together and then get more guys and girls off the dry slope and off out to race on alpine which would be great as they don’t know what they’re missing out on. It’s such a different ball game! We are also looking into something at the moment so that we could run our own Masters indoor Mini-Series to try to encourage dry slope racers to have a go on snow. Then maybe in the future we might be able to do a Masters Mini-Series on dry slope as well, purely for Masters, which would be good. It hopefully makes everyone more well-rounded and should help with the diversity of the club whilst keeping everyone involved”

But is there a big difference between how people race on dry slope compared to when they’re doing alpine? Nigel says, “Oh yes there’s a big, big difference! When we had the British Master’s Leg of the FIS Masters Cup in Morgins in Switzerland, we took eight dry slope Master racers who hadn’t ever raced on alpine snow before and they did really struggle. It’s harder because of all the bumps, ruts and snow conditions such as whether the snow is rock hard icy or slushy or powdery so I think they realised what it’s actually like which is a good thing but it also means a totally different technique is needed. You’re having to load only the outside ski rather than a little bit of loading on both sides of the ski and you’ve also got to be really fluid in your legs or you’ll just come out. The physicality of your body is also completely different to how it would be on a dry slope – you need to be much more flexible. So it’s a different learning curve for them but hopefully with the club we can get them out there and trying it.”

So what’s the greatest thing about the British Masters Team and what makes it something you want to become involved in? “It’s got to be the camaraderie between everyone” says Nigel. “We’re all parents or coaches of racers and I don’t think any of us were ever going to be Europa Cup or World Cup Racers, whereas other nations are, so we know we’re not quite at that standard but we know when we have a good season. Winning those medals and having people place well just makes us feel really good and we know we can achieve something. To be honest, since the winter season finished, it’s got a little bit more serious. Some of us now, including myself, are doing a little bit more dry land training and trying to get a bit fitter, you know just to get into the cat suits! But I think the greatest thing has got to be the camaraderie within the club.”

Nigel also said that the camaraderie of the club is a good thing because “It has started to make it internally competitive. There are a few little face-offs going on between some of the females and males and it does give that little bit of edge and that’s great. It’s good as long as it doesn’t get out of hand otherwise we’d lose the camaraderie but all the time it’s there, it gives you that little bit of edge and it’s awesome. It helps us push ourselves and I think that’s why a few of us are doing more dry land training to try to get to that next level!”

Words – Ffyona Speed

Picture – The GB Masters team