Dave Ryding shocked the ski racing world last January when after finding himself leading the prestigious Kitzbuehel World Cup slalom after the opening run, the British ace managed to fight tooth and nail to hang on for a second-place finish at the “Superbowl of Skiing.” It was Great Britain’s first World Cup podium in any discipline, for men or women, since 1981.
“I never even dreamed it,” Ryding noted following his breakthrough race. “It’s so far beyond my dream that it’s just like, ‘Is this really happening? Am I really doing this in Kitzbuehel, of all places?’ It’s incredible. I’m speechless. Crossing the line, I couldn’t believe it; it was just so cool that it really happened. Coming down into second felt like a win.”
Seven months later, Ryding is hard at work preparing for the upcoming World Cup season and Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, along with the rest of the recently revamped British ski team. He looks to build upon his successes in the future.
“British Skiing is well and truly on the up,” he tells British Ski and Snowboard in a recent interview. “I have felt some great momentum over the past few years from the work of the alpine committee, and now we have a really professional setup, with the appointment of Dan Hunt, Reini Fernsebner, and additional coaches. I am really passionate about how the sport can grow further down the line. I am in a great position myself now, so to know that these things are falling into place around me really gives me the belief that there are no more limits. I have to make the most of the situation I’ve been given.”
Even though fighting for a World Cup win in Kitzbuehel was a career-defining moment for Ryding, he was able to draw on past experiences as a young aspiring skier in order to calm some of his nerves before kicking out of the starting gate for the second run.
“Kitzbuehel was obviously a whole new experience for me, but saying that, I was feeling a lot of similar emotions to when I was first leading a dryslope race, or first leading a FIS race,” he shares. “I tried to draw on these occasions and it was comforting to know that these feelings are totally normal, but just on a whole different level. Kitzbuehel being so different probably played into my favor. I knew it was hard just to finish the race, no matter what position you are in – having skied out on the second run the previous two years – so it kind of made me focus more on good skiing than having to defend a lead.”
Although Ryding was able to conquer his race-day nerves in Kitzbuehel, it was what happened in the minutes, hours, and days following the race that was most challenging for the 30-year-old.
“I didn’t stay focused in between (Kitzbuehel and Schladming). I couldn’t do anything that I would have liked to have done, and never mind the lack of sleep due to the excitement of the whole thing,” he admits. “It was phone call after phone call and TV things all Monday. Drawing No. 1 also ramped up the pressure big time for my first start bib in the top seven. Couple this with the biggest crowd of the year at the night race, it was all a learning curve big time. But come the race I could at least get back in the zone and rely on all my training coming up to the race. I did the best I could, but in the second run I was really struggling with tiredness.”
Having had his first taste of what superstars like Austria’s Marcel Hirscher and Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal deal with on a daily basis during the World Cup season, it’s safe to say that Ryding will be prepared the next time he finds himself on a podium in front of thousands of ski-crazed fans and eager members of the media.
Check out BBC Breakfast’s feature on Ryding and the rest of British Ski and Snowboard here.