ALPINE WORLDS - CAN GB GET A MEDAL?
- Jane Peel, Chief Reporter
For the first time in decades, Britain has a realistic prospect of a medal. Dave Ryding has been on the World Cup podium once and is in the form of his life. PlanetSKI has been speaking to him.
Friday February 3, 2017 - Email this article to a friend
Our last interview with Dave "The Rocket" Ryding took place after what we - and probably he - thought could turn out to be his best result of the season.
He'd come 6th in the opening World Cup race in Levi in November.
It was a career best. His highest finish before then had been a 12th place the previous season.
Do you need reminding what's happened since then?
In short, the outstanding result was Ryding's silver medal at Kitzbühel on 22nd January - the best result for a Brit since Konrad Bartelski was runner-up in the Val Gardena downhill in 1981.
But that's not all.
Ryding's World Cup season so far includes five Top 10s. In only one of his nine races to date has he dropped outside the Top 15.
He goes to the World Championships in St Moritz ranked 5th in the world.
Ryding is riding high
"Obviously we've worked hard, but I wasn't expecting this," Ryding tells me.
Neither were we but surely, now, anything is possible at the World Championships?
"It's a piste that's not as challenging at Kitzbühel so it will be very, very tight racing," he says. "It's one of those pistes where risk is rewarded. We'll see."
Ryding says 'we'll see' quite a lot. He is determined to keep his feet on the ground and focus on his future skiing rather than his past results.
Tricky, since everyone, including me, wants to ask him about that silver medal.
So, I do.
What was like to be in the lead after the first run?
"I thought 'I am in at the deep end here'," he says.
"It was just a case of trying to keep my composure for the second run. No one really remembers the leader of the first run, only the final result.
"I was trying to keep my heart rate down between the runs. I had to take myself back to races where I was leading before, though this was a bit different as it was a World Cup race.
"I knew I had a bit of a buffer on 3rd and 4th place and I knew I had to attack the course.
"I was happy with the way I skied. It would have taken a superhuman effort to beat (Marcel) Hirscher."
One the Kitzbühel podium
Ryding's photo montage from Kitzbühel
The podium thrust Ryding into the public and media spotlight.
"Austria is skiing mad anyway," he says, "so to get a podium in Kitzbühel is surreal. Overnight I was recognised everywhere I went in Austria.
"I had many, many phone calls and was on the TV news.
"You have got to embrace it. It's what you dream of as a kid.
"With that result, being British, you have to take all these media opportunities because it's important for the sport.
Making the national press
"Hopefully it will put skiing back into people's minds again.
"Hopefully, it's good for the sport, not just me. The sport needs the coverage."
Ryding says he managed to turn his phone off for a few hours and take a nap, but there was little time for rest since his next race was just 48 hours after Kitzbühel, in Schladming.
At the Schladming bib draw
Ryding finished 10th in Schladming, which would have felt like a great achievement had it not been for that podium finish.
"I was still obviously feeling the effects of Sunday at Kitzbühel, but I had to reassess," he says.
"This season I was only aiming for one Top 10 and consistently being in the Top 15 so I went back that goal. I thought: ski as well as you can and take the result you get."
A week later and Ryding was back in action at the Stockholm World Cup - a city centre evening parallel slalom with the skiers going head to head.
Only 16 men were invited - the top racers on the tour. It was the first time Ryding had competed in a World Cup parallel slalom.
As if to prove his silver medal was no fluke, Ryding was agonisingly close to another podium, missing the bronze by just 0.06 seconds, and finishing fourth.
"It's the kind of event where you need to have a bit of luck because you need to have a good draw," Ryding says.
"It's a really pressured situation - head to head with another guy with 18 gates. It's a real buzz but it's hectic.
"Being brought up on dry slopes, we did a lot of these races in a similar format. You get used to it. It wasn't that alien to me.
"My first two rounds I thought I did some good skiing and didn't make mistakes, but there's not much rest between runs and I started to get a bit fatigued in the semi-final against Alexis (Pinturault) and I made a few mistakes. These things happen."
Ryding was then just pipped by the Swede Mattias Hargin in the race to determine the third and fourth places.
"I would loved to have made third but if you had offered me fourth before the night I would have said 'yeah'.
"But when there are only four left, you don't want to be the fourth guy!"
After Stockholm on 31st January, Ryding has, finally, been able to take some time out.
He spent a few days back at home in Lancashire last week before heading to Pyhrn-Priel, the Austrian resort that is one of his main sponsors, to resume his on-snow training.
He won't travel to St Moritz until the latter half of next week.
The men's slalom is the last race in the World Championship programme and will be held on Sunday 19th February.
Make sure you don't sleep in. The first run is scheduled to begin at 8.45am GMT.
We'll be watching.
Good luck Dave Ryding!
World Championships slalom course
Dave Ryding will be joined at the World Championships by teammates from the Delancey British Alpine Ski Team.
Rising star, 20-year-old Laurie Taylor will also compete in the slalom race in his first World Championships. He'll also race in the giant slalom on Friday 17th February.
Charlie Raposo (21) who has had mixed results this season will also race in the GS, where he will look to better his 34th place in the last World Championships in Vail-Beaver Creek in 2015.
For the British women, Alex Tilley (23) will compete in both GS on Thursday 16th February and slalom on Saturday 18th February. She will be looking for a solid result after two podiums in the Far East Cup, coupled with some frustrating races on the World Cup circuit this season.
Tilley will be joined by Cara Brown (23) in the GS and Charlie Guest (23) who, despite recently injuring her hand, is hoping to compete in the slalom. Guest has had some solid results in FIS races in recent weeks and Brown only returned to snow earlier this season following knee surgery last year.
Read our earlier interview with Dave Ryding and learn all about his rise from the dry slope to the World Cup.
PlanetSKI was in St Moritz in December to visit the Free Fall, the start of the men's World Championship downhill course. Find out what it's like to ski the steepest race start in the world.
The 2017 ALPINE WORLD SKI CHAMPIONSHIPS take place in St Moritz from 6th to 19th February 2017.
FACTS & FIGURES
- 589 athletes (360 men and 229 ladies) from 76 different nations are entered to compete
- Altogether, 11 medal events are on the schedule, 5 for men, 5 for ladies & one mixed team event
- 15 broadcasters from all over the world will show the action live. The production of the international television signal is the responsibility of SRF, the Swiss public service broadcaster.
- More than 1300 volunteers will support the World Championships in different areas such as accreditation, transport or hospitality
- As presenting sponsor of the World Championships, Audi provides a fleet of 15 vehicles to escort athletes, officials and guests
- More than 76,000 tickets have been sold so far, with some further tickets still available.
- The FIS World Championships medals, created by Swiss Designer Alex W. Diggelmann (1902-1987), have been manufactured solely for FIS since 1952. Each medal weighs 137 grams.
- Austrian composer and long-time director of the well-known Haydn choir Otto Strobl (born 1927) composed the FIS fanfare, the official anthem of FIS. The fanfare will be used at each key event including the opening ceremony and presentation of athletes and officials, the raising of the FIS flag, the start of each race, the winner's presentations and award ceremonies, as well as the closing ceremony.
The full event schedules can be found here:
For an overview of all the activities and events during the Championships, the St. Moritz 2017 mobile App can be downloaded for iOS and Android.
For further information, visit the official website www.stmoritz2017 and follow the hashtag #stmoritz2017 on social media.
See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.
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ENGLISH ALPINE CHAMPIONSHIPS UNDERWAY (Monday February 20, 2017)
WOODSY ON WINNING AND WHAT'S NEXT (Saturday February 18, 2017)
SUN SHINES AS ANDORRA FWT ENDS (Friday February 17, 2017)