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Wednesday November 23, 2016 - Email this article to a friend

The GB racer is now preparing to race again. In Val d'Isere at the weekend. He made the Top 10 in the world in his first race of the season. We caught up with him after THAT race.

Dave Ryding-  aka The Rocket - lived up to his nickname and finished sixth in the slalom in the first race of the season at Levi in Finland.

Britain's number one slalom skier and two-time Olympian was tantalisingly close to a first World Cup podium. 

It is a phenomenal achievement and marks the highest finish for a GB racer in 15 years.

Dave Ryding, Levi, Nov 2016Ryding at Levi - photo Christophe Pallot, Agence Zoom










Ryding took a short break after Levi but nine days later he was in Sweden and back on snow. 

He spoke to PlanetSKI during a break in his training.  

We first offer our congratulations, then wonder whether he's come back down to earth yet.

"Well, it took a while," he says.

"It was a very proud moment, knowing that the work I've put in and my coaches have put in is paying off.  It's nice to have the result for them too - to show that their work is not being wasted.

"And it's good to get the team off to a good start."

The coaches Ryding refers to are Tristan Glasse-Davies, the British Alpine Men's World Cup Head Coach, and Ali Morton,  who is the team technician and assists with the coaching. 

Both men travel with Ryding and he is keen to give them some credit for his success.

"Last season was the first time I had a proper ski service person," Ryding says.  "I've built a good relationship with Ali.  I fully trust him.

"If you look at my progress over the last 6 years, it's been steady improvement year on year, but I have got to keep working.

"Three years ago I won the Europa Cup (one level down from the World Cup) but the next season when I hoped to make progress in the World Cup I scored no points.

"Since then I've put a lot of emphasis on technique, and perfecting better technique on the difficult pistes."

He has also been working hard off the snow, and not only in the gym.

Dave Ryding trainingAnywhere will do



















Dave Ryding at Southport Park RunRyding after a 5k run
















It is clearly paying off.

In the 2014/15 season Ryding had five Top 30 finishes in World Cup races and finished 30th in the standings.

In 2015/16 he began the winter with what was at the time a career-best 12th on the technically demanding Val d'Isère slalom course.  In later races he finished 13th and 16th as well as achieving another four Top 30 placings.

The results enabled him to qualify for the World Cup Finals, where he finished 15th, and to end the season 22nd overall.

Dave Ryding at Kitzbühel Jan 2016Kitzbühel, January 2016 - photo Agence Zoom















So, could this season prove even more successful for the Englishman who will celebrate his 30th birthday six days before his next race, back in Val d'Isère?

"I have no expectations for Val d'Isère," he says.  "I'll see what I can do and take the season from there.

"It's great to have been sixth but it isn't a total reflection of the whole season.  I have got to keep working and keep pushing.

"There are so many slalom skiers who are slalom specialists who are going to be building through the season. 

"It's just up to me to go into the race as good as I can be."

Dave Ryding has come a very long way since making his first turns at the age of six on the dry slopes near his home in Lancashire.

He was encouraged to learn by his ski-mad father, Carl, who promised to take him and his sister skiing on real snow if they achieved a good basic level. 

He joined Pendle Ski Club, and competed in his first dry slope race aged eight. 

Dave Ryding as a teenager A teenaged Ryding in action


















Ryding followed in the footsteps of another slalom specialist, the Scot Alain Baxter, whose record of seven British National Slalom titles he equalled earlier this year.

Baxter's best World Cup result was fourth in 2001.

Ryding believes he is - to some extent -  a product of Baxter's success.  He is on a programme heavily subsidised by the sport's governing body, British Ski & Snowboard, has the services of two coaches, strength conditioning training from the Scottish Institute of Sport, and an array of sponsors who provide him with kit and financial support.

There is little doubt, however, that the situation would have been far better for Ryding and his teammates on the senior squad had Baxter been allowed to keep the bronze medal he won at the 2002 Winter Olympics.     

Baxter was stripped of the medal after testing positive for a banned substance.  Although he successfully argued that he'd inadvertently taken the drug, the medal was not given back to him.

An Olympic medal would have attracted some big sponsorship.

As it stands, alpine skiers are the poor relations of the GB team.  They currently receive no funding from UK Sport, whose grants go instead to Park & Pipe  - the discipline deemed to offer the best chance of podium success.

Dave RydingRyding in GB Team kit


















The total cost for a skier to compete on the World Cup circuit is £90,000.  British Ski & Snowboard provides £60,000 and Ryding, who has been on the British team for 10 years, also gets an athlete award of £10,000.

So he personally has to find around £20,000 each season to compete, and is kept solvent by his sponsors.

He's very grateful to have just secured £8,000 from a new one - Kent-based Quinn Estates, whose Managing Director, Mark Quinn, is himself a former national ski racer. 

"I'm not at all in a bad situation," he says. "It would be nice not to pay anything but unless you are in a big team like the Austrians or the Swiss then everyone has to pay something.

"I have been lucky through my career.  The sponsors have stood by me and I'll be very loyal to them all my days.

"It's nice now to be getting the results."

His goal for this season is to continue racing to the best of his ability.

After that comes the prospect of a third Winter Olympics at PyeongChang in 2018.   He finished 17th at the last one in Sochi. 

But Ryding says he's not thinking that far ahead.

Dave RydingRocket Ryding


















As he approaches his 30th birthday, I wonder whether he ever questions how long he'll continue racing?

"I get asked this a lot these days," he says somewhat ruefully.

"I always say that the last Olympic champion was 35 years old.  The oldest competitor this season is 39.

"As long as my body tells me I can do it, I am hoping to keep going.  If I can still do it at 50 I will."

 - Dave Ryding is sponsored by: Pyhrn-Priel ski resort, Austria; Fischer; Leki; C-Tech; Vital; Quinn Estates; Kandahar Ski Club; Zanier Gloves; Bawbags Clothing

 - The British Alpine Senior Squad is sponsored by: Delancey

You can read more on Dave Ryding's sixth place in Levi, including reaction to his success here.

New funding initiatives were launched in the autumn to support British skiers and snowboarders. 

See PlanetSKI's report for all the details.

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.

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