The 30-year-old skier from Lancashire surprises the entire ski world as he breaks the stigma behind British skiing with a tremendous season
Dave Ryding started skiing on one of the few things skiable in England, the local dry slope. He clipped into the bindings of some beginner skis at the age of six and has never looked back.
Ryding soon got invited into the GB set up in his teens due to his speed, technique and pure determination. In the years of his development, training and competitions, Ryding, like most skiers, undertook all the ski disciplines: downhill, slalom and giant slalom. However, it was his decision at the age of 25 that sent him into the British skiing record books.
Ryding and his coaches made the decision to put all attention on slalom skiing, his best discipline. This was certainly a bold call as the mental toughness needed to focus on one discipline is immense. However, this did not stop Ryding as he knew his ability, coupled with his enthusiasm for letting gravity propel him down the slopes at incredible speeds, was enough to escape this problem.
After this decision, the success started pouring in as he was the first Brit to win an Overall Europa Cup title in 2013. In the 2015 season he finished in the top 30 in World Cup races 5 times. Following on from this, in the 2016 season Ryding became the 4th Brit ever to make it to the World Cup finals (top 25 in the World Cup standings) where he finished a superb 15th. Ryding and his team were setting themselves up nicely for the 2016/17 ski season.
Ryding had a terrific start to the 2016/17 World Cup season. In November, 2016, he finished 6th at Levi, Finland. This was his first ever top 10 World Cup finish. His form continued as he then finished 7th in January, 2017, in Zagreb, Croatia.
It was in the same month that Ryding made history and got his name in all the media headlines (including this one!). Ryding was in Kitzbuehel, Austria, arguably the home of modern slalom skiing with 60,000 spectators lining the course. It is said this is the Nou Camp of the sport! There was not only pressure from the huge number of fans watching but also the fact that nearly all of them were Austrian. They were cheering on their local hero, Marcel Hirscher, the man with 6 World Championship titles to his name.
The slalom events consist of two runs, your finish on your first run determines the position you will race at in your second run. In Ryding’s first run, he raced down the slope with the look of someone who had been skiing since the age of four (something many of his competitors had actually been doing!). He finished an amazing first place meaning he would be last to race on his second run.
He produced a near flawless second run, letting the skis do the work with fast short-turn carving. As soon as he came out of the gate, he found his rhythm on a steep and icy course. However, it was not to be as he was edged out by local hero, Hirscher, into second place. This result shocked the alpine skiing world as he claimed Britain’s first World Cup skiing podium for 36 years. The last Brit to do it was Konrad Bartelski in 1981. The response to Bartelski’s incredible achievement was similar to Ryding’s as a French commentator said “This is not possible, he is an Englishman”.
After this event, Ryding continued to have a successful season. Sadly, he did not get on the podium again but he did come close as he finished 4th in Stockholm, Sweden.
Ryding has proved Brits can actually ski and he is a great ambassador for such an amazing sport. His work ethic is inspiring and I am certain, after this season, he has inspired many young Brits to take up skiing and further expand British skiing. As a ski enthusiast, he is a joy to watch.
Ryding’s eyes must now be on the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. If he is able to replicate the form from this season then he may just stand on that podium once again and watch the British flag rise to the astonishment of the ski world.