‘Squeaky-bum time’: Ryding eyes Olympic gold after shock World Cup win | Ski
After becoming Britain’s latest – and perhaps most unlikely – World Cup winner, Dave ‘the Rocket’ Ryding, a 35-year-old slalom skier from Chorley in Lancashire, is aiming to surprise the world again at next month’s Winter Olympics.
Until Saturday, no British skier had ever won a gold medal in the 55-year history of the Alpine Skiing World Cup. But Ryding’s stunning victory in Kitzbühel changed all that – and earned him 100,000 euros in the process.
When asked what crossed his mind at the start line before his remarkable second run, which saw him jump from sixth to first place, Ryding was disarmingly honest. “I was like, ‘Damn, I’m just gonna try to get down and ski the best I can and see where it takes me,'” he replied.
The performance made Ryding the oldest winner of a men’s slalom World Cup, but he was too tired to celebrate with a few drinks afterwards. “I’m too old for that,” he said, smiling. “I am completely overwhelmed. We ate well.”
The popular skier will soon travel to Beijing for his fourth Winter Olympics – where he admits, to use a phrase from Sir Alex Ferguson, that it will be ‘squeaky ass time’.
“Of course I’m going to have pressure and of course people are going to expect me to do well,” he admitted. “In my last Olympics, I got to the starting gate and it was squeaky weather.
“And I will still be nervous because it’s the biggest race in four years. It’s the pinnacle. I expect to ski well, but no matter what, I can go home knowing that I have a World Cup victory.
The win was the culmination of a nearly 30-year journey, which began when Ryding started learning to ski aged six on the 50m dry run at Pendle in Lancashire. However, it wasn’t until the age of 12 that he tried snow skiing for the first time – after his working-class parents promised they would take their first skiing holiday in family if he and his sister, Jo, reached a decent standard.
His father Carl, a market trader who retrained as a gas engineer to help fund their son’s dreams, and his mother Shirley, a hairdresser, then spent weekends driving Ryding around the country to run. However, they made him pass his A levels before agreeing that he could spend a year trying to turn his love of skiing into a career.
“I had to learn everything later because I only got exposed to the mountains when I got older,” he admitted. “It was a tough learning curve, but I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Ryding’s route to the summit continued to have almost as many sharp turns as an alpine pass. But he believes years on the fringes helped make him the skier he is today.
“In 2010, when the old federation went bankrupt and we had nothing, that was a tough time, really tough,” he said. “It was just me and my coach on the road. But it also made me and gave me the determination, it gave me the work ethic and just that nothing is given for free.
“The doubt is still there,” added Ryding, who made his World Cup debut at Alta Badia in 2009 and was racing his 97th race on Saturday. “You make a run and you’re not happy with it, you’re in trouble again, you get back up, you get slapped again. It’s relentless, but you learn to deal with it, to take the step and to go for it.
When asked if he intended to spend his €100,000 prize money, his answer was straightforward: “No, I’m a big ass!”
“I’m lucky because I’ve been in the top 15 in the world to earn a living,” he added. “Footballers earn more in a week than I do in a year. But I’m not complaining. I was totally fine with coming away with nothing at 30 if it didn’t work out. That’s what I was ready to do. And now Kitzbühel. If you’re going to win one for a cash prize, this is it.
Ryding also hopes her victory can inspire the next generation of British skiers. Meanwhile, he also has a wedding with his fiancée, Mandy, to look forward to in May. But, for now, his focus is on the Olympics.
“When you win a World Cup three weeks before the Olympics, it’s natural for everyone to talk,” he admitted. “Obviously the pressure and expectations will have increased, but I won’t be defined by an Olympics. I’ve had an incredible career that I’m proud of. Winning one took the weight off my shoulders.
“It was a crazy day and it’s been a crazy trip. But I never stopped believing that I could do it.