Team GB Exclusive: Ryding ready for next challenge
Exclusive

Team GB Exclusive: Ryding ready for next challenge

02 April 2015 / 10:18

There's few Olympic disciplines more unforgiving than slalom skiing. You can't hold back, everything must be on the edge and yet the slightest slip and it's all over with a four-year wait to get the chance again. 

There's no repechages, no opportunities to be a lucky loser and fortunes favours the bold, it's sport at its most brutal. Anything can happen, especially when you throw in the lottery of the elements, and it usually does.

Dave Ryding has appeared at two Olympics, finishing 27th in Vancouver and 17th last year in Sochi, where he blamed a 'schoolboy error' for not finishing higher up the rankings.

This year he has established himself in the top 30 of the World Cup circuit and achieved Britain's best performances in an alpine skiing race in five years, with a top 20 finishes in Are and Madonna di Campiglio.

Ryding's journey from his Lancashire hometown - highest peak Beacon Fell, just 873ft above sea level - to the rarified air of the skiing circuit is hardly conventional, he first learned to ski on a dry slope in Pendle.

But he's brimming with confidence after his best season yet.

Last week he claimed another national title in Tignes, coming home nearly a second ahead of the rest of the field.

But it's against the best in the world that the 28-year old must really challenge himself.

"There are seven guys in top 30 who are 35 or older so I could have two more Olympics in me and plenty more World Cup campaigns," he told TeamGB.com.

"I've certainly not peaked yet because this sport is getting older for some reason, which is great news for me.

"I'm just going to hang in there, keep improving and keep climbing the rankings and see where that takes me. I've not lost any fight, I'm more determined than ever and there's no lack of self-belief.

“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.” 

Last season Ryding became the first British skier to win the overall slalom title on the second-tier Europa Cup circuit but this year's results, against higher quality opposition, represent a significant step up.

But there's a long way to go to match the four World Cup top tens achieved by Britain's most successful slalom skier, Alain Baxter, back in 2001.

“I’m 31st on the World Cup start list at the moment, but for next year I should start in the 20s with a few people retiring," added Ryding.

"Breaking into the top 30 and then establishing yourself there is massively important.

"When you do it you’ve got to make sure you come properly ready and kick on from there.

“Once you start solidifying yourself in there the pressure will hopefully get a bit less and then you can ski more loose. Top-15 results are definitely achievable  and after that you are right in the mix."

However, Ryding admits some disappointment that he couldn't translate his early season form into better results in the New Year, a feeling compounded by a bizarre injury that cost him at the World Championships.

“When the season’s going and you have a 16th and 17th before Christmas, you think you can go on afterwards – but my best since was 24th and 25th," he added.

“I was a bit unfortunate before the World Championships, I got slightly injured – I hurt my shin which was a stupid one, I kicked my bed!

“So my head wasn’t totally there I was trying to figure a way of how to ski properly while I was carrying the injury. Until then it was going really well and it was disappointing not to perform. But at the same time these things happen, that’s sport. You’ve got to take the rough with the smooth.”

From Chris Bailey, Sportsbeat, in Tignes

© Sportsbeat 2015