“It was great hearing from the athletes,” explained one delegate at the Clubs and Facilities Conference in Loughborough, “these are the guys and girls who are at the top end of why we are all doing this.” From top World Cup Slalom athlete Dave Ryding, through British Under 21 Slalom Champion Robert Poth to rising Park and Pipe athlete Millie Wilkinson to rising snowboarding star Nicole Haines, the delegates were treated to how things are in their own words. 

The good use of video, pictures and interview from Ian Findlay, the four athletes explained about their rise to where they are as well as why they do the sport they are so passionate about. All had great stories and influences in how their careers had developed and gave the delegates plenty to think about.

Nicole Haines started the interviews off. Ranked 48 in the World in her age group, Under 15, Hainer showed no fear in telling the delegates about how much she enjoys both Park and Pipe as well as Boardercross. Her inspirational speech explained how she had overcome family illness as well as how she enjoys encouraging others to improve. Asked how she gets over the pressure of competition she admitted that food can be her comfort. Before people had a chance to digest that she explained that the competition is more against herself: “I try as hard as I can,” she added.

Under 21 British Slalom Champion, Robert Poth was next up. Poth explained that he had achieved the goals that he had set out to achieve last season but that the highlight was winning the British Junior Slalom title in Tignes in March (read race report). Summer is the time when alpine athletes put the fitness miles into the bank ready for the winter and Poth explained that he was roughly half way through his summer Strength and Conditioning period before he heads off for training and racing in Australia in July. With double gym sessions five days a week, a light session on day six and then complete rest on the seventh day, Poth is building his fitness up ready for the new season.

Having been skiing since he was three, he started racing at four and took part in his first race on snow aged five in Alpbach, Austria, Poth now trains full time under the guidance of Stephen Edwards and Richard Breese with EDEP. With his eyes on the 2022 Olympics in Beijing, Poth has benefitted from being able to use the local facilities at Hemel. Asked what he focusses on when training and taking part in Indoor races during the summer, Poth explained he thinks back on how many good turns he did rather than looking for the bad.

With the World Junior Championships on the horizon for this season as well as an outside chance of qualifying for the World Championships in St Moritz, Poth has lots to aim for in the coming season. With so much talk about Alpine and Park and Pipe, Poth explained that doing the Rails does not really appeal to him but he does go down Ski Cross tracks if they are around!

Millie Wilkinson was next up and while the Park and Pipe athlete has tried alpine and moguls, it is the ethos of just go out and have have that she lives by. The influence of Pat Sharples and the Summerhayes sisters have been major players in her career to date as has the fact that her father is a ski instructor!.

Wilkinson is one of a breed of athletes that puts back into the sport: She can regularly be seen to be helping out young athletes and organised the ‘Millie Jam’ that helped raise funds for charity. With the aim of going professional, Wilkinson knows that it is hard to find a coach that will do more than one season. Like Haines, Wilkinson has had to balance school and sport. She ended her time saying that while her parents said ‘School over Skiing,’ this would annoy her at first but then they are right (with a rye grin!)

The section ended with a video interview with Dave Ryding while he was on a training camp at an Indoor Slope in Lithuania. From having started his first race aged 13, Ryding is now ranked 22 in the World in Slalom. A fantastic achievement for the man who started out at the slope in Pendle. Summer is spent honing the skills so that they are perfect come the winter. Starting out slowly, Ryding uses the consistency of the Indoor slopes to perfect his technique and not have to battle the conditions if training on the glaciers.

Ryding was honest and forthright in his opinions. Nothing is easy and racers need to make more of the opportunity that they have he feels. His advice was “Enjoy it. Have a laugh. Try to get better and anything is possible.” Ryding qualified for the World Cup Finals last season (read race report) and will be hoping to improve on his already burgeoning reputation next season.

It is always hard trying to replicate the mindset and positive vibe to bring about a great run, Ryding explained. To overcome feelings that may be negative when entering the start gate, Ryding tries to focus on a specific goal each run.

Britain has some inspirational and tremendously hard working athletes, coaches, ski techs, administrators and supporters of competition. They are the tip of the iceberg and an inspiration to us all. Good luck this winter!

Picture: Dave Ryding on his way to winning his seventh British Slalom Title in Tignes in March (read race report). Credit Racer Ready – all rights reserved (www.racer-ready.ifp3.com)