Dave ‘The Rocket’ Ryding has won both our hearts and a podium position on this years world cup circuit. This is no mean feat for a Brit who began his career on the grassy heights of the Pendle Dry Slope, so how did ‘The Rocket’ charge his way to the top and what could this mean for the future of British skiing.
While most of the alpine greats seem to have been born on skis, Dave Ryding did not set foot on skis until the age of 6. His ski enthusiast father, Carl, signed him and his sister up to the local Pendle Ski Club with the tempting promise that if they could learn the basics he would take them skiing on real snow.
This happened at the age of 8, when most of today’s alpine athletes were already engaged in rigorous training programs, Ryding went on his first family ski holiday to the French Alps.
It soon became clear Ryding not only had a love for the sport but also a real talent and he began training and racing regularly at the Pendle dry slope. He was later picked for the English Schools Ski Team and in 2006 won the British Junior Championships.
Despite this promising start Ryding did not train on snow until the age of 12, when most successful athletes are already technically proficient and well on the road to professional racing. This was not helped by the financial failure and subsequent liquidation of Britain’s Snowsports governing body, Snowsports GB, in 2010 when Ryding and other British Athletes were in Calgary ready to compete in the Winter Olympics.
This put Ryding’s career on hold until a turning point came when, at the age of 25, his coach took the controversial decision that he should focus solely on one discipline – slalom.
In a recent interview with Eurosport, Ryding admits “Other nations think it’s crazy to train in just one discipline. But if that’s what my coaches thought was best for me, I was happy to go along with it. There are so many variables in skiing – it might be raining, snowing, windy, icy – and I wasn’t exposed to all those different conditions when I was younger. So it took time to build the complete skillset and catch up to the rest.”
This season those changes have paid off with Ryding taking 5 top 10 finishes during this seasons FIS World Cup. Including an outstanding performance in Kitzbühel which saw him claim a podium 2nd place in front of a 60,000 strong crowd. The first Brit to make the World Cup podium since 1981.
Now looking forward to the final race in Aspen our humble golden boy is on a roll and our hopes are high for the 2018 Olympics.
Ryding shows us that there is no reason why we cannot compete with the best. Despite his late start and a string of setbacks Dave has shown us what can be achieved if we work hard and refuse to give up.
In his own words “It’s been a long road but I’ve shown what’s possible if you’re prepared to put in the effort. It’s not as if the Austrians have any kind of genetic advantage over the British. We’re all born the same. I’m sure over the next few years there will be other British skiers doing what I’m doing. Good things can happen if you just get your head down and chip away.”
So, as many of us look ahead to our own Kitzbühel – the end of season ski exams – let’s keep our head down, keep the focus and smash it like Dave ‘The Rocket’ Ryding!