Alpine World Cup gold for skier Dave Ryding from Croston

Dave Ryding in training last year at Saas Fee in Switzerland

Dave Ryding in training last year at Saas Fee in Switzerland - Credit: Amarcter

Dave Ryding from Croston has won Britain's first alpine skiing World Cup gold medal with victory in the Kitzbuhel slalom. 

And now the 35-year-old has his sights set on medals at the Winter Olympics which start in China on February 4. 

He was sixth after his first run at the alpine skiing World Cup but a brilliant second effort saw him leap up the leaderboard and take gold ahead on Norwegians Lucas Braathen and Henrik Kristoffersen. 

He spoke to Lancashire Life from his training base in the Alps as he prepares for his fourth Winter Olympics 

He has improved on his results each time, finishing 27th in 2010, 17th in 2014 and 9th in 2018, so who would bet against further improvement this time? 

‘There’s no reason at all why I can’t be one of the contenders for a medal,’ he said. ‘The favourites will have a lot of pressure on them. This will be my fourth Olympics, so I know what it’s about and will hopefully be able to use that experience to my benefit. 

‘As long as I’m skiing well, there’s no limit. I don’t have a set goal, but I know I just have to worry about my own performance. I’ve had three World Cup podium finishes and my placings in the Olympics have improved each time. 

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‘The last two gold medallists have been 34 or 35 and I’m 35, so I know I just have to go and do my best and see where it takes me.’ 

Alpine World Cup gold medallist Dave Ryding

Alpine World Cup gold medallist Dave Ryding - Credit: Amarcster

Many of the people he will be competing against in Beijing will have been on skis since they could walk and will always have been at home in the mountains. But as a child growing up in Croston there wasn’t much opportunity for Dave to experience hills, let alone ones with enough snow to ski down. 

‘No, it is very flat round there,’ said Dave, who spoke to Lancashire Life from a training base in Val de Saire in the French Alps. 

When he was young his parents would take a skiing holiday each year and wanted him to learn the basics before they took him. His first time on skis was at Pendle Ski Club when he was about six and a half. 

‘There was a woman there called Jeanette and she was really good with the younger children, keeping us all interested and entertained and making us want to keep going,’ said Dave who also played rugby and football as a boy. 

Dave Ryding in training on the Swiss slopes

Dave Ryding in training on the Swiss slopes - Credit: Amarcster

‘I progressed through the classes at Pendle until the race teams invited me to join them. Most of my skiing on dry slopes and I was never that good as a child – I never made the British team at the young age groups – but I stuck with it and I started picking off other people who had been ahead of me. It was only really when I left college that I started to get quite renowned in British circles.’ 

Having broken into the national squad, Dave was dealt a blow when the GB ski and snowboard foundation was declared bankrupt about a month before his first Winter Olympics. 

‘For some years from then it was just me and my coach, so it was a David and Goliath contest for me to compete against people who were training full time with all the gear and teams around them,’ Dave added. 

‘We had to stretch our budget to get the most out of it – we'd stay in cheaper accommodation and less expensive resorts and spend all the time we could training. It was hard because I had to do it all myself, but it gave me a good work ethic. 

‘UK Sport started to take notice in 2017 and now I have nothing less than the Austrians and the others apart from access to the slopes, that’s obviously easier for them and I am living out of a suitcase and being away from my family a lot. But I have a good team around me. 

‘This will be the first year I’ll have teammates, two lads about ten years younger than me so the future is looking good for British skiing. I think there are some promising young people at Pendle, too. 

‘Personally, I just keep striving to do better. When I’m away, I’m on the snow five days a week in the mornings, and doing physical training in the gym in the afternoons three or four times a week. I also run – I love Park Run, that’s such a great thing. I do the one at Hesketh Park in Southport when I’m at home.’ 

Dave Ryding will be hoping for more medal success when he takes to the slopes at his fourth Winter Olympics

Dave Ryding will be hoping for more medal success when he takes to the slopes at his fourth Winter Olympics, in China from February 4-20 - Credit: Amacster

And when he is home, Dave is kept busy helping to run Boskins café at Tarleton with his fiancee Mandy Dirkzwager – a former skier herself, from another famously flat part of the world: Holland. 

‘A café came up and I knew I would love to run it, so I jumped at it,’ Dave said. ‘I knew nothing about business but I usually find the best thing is to jump in. We took over in April. Mandy does the day-to-day running and I help with background stuff. I’ve learned a lot and it’s good to have something else to think about and to stimulate my brain in a different way. 

‘The business has grown throughout the pandemic and we have some help in there now. A lot of athletes can struggle when they leave sport and can find themselves in a downward spiral. This has allowed me to see a life after sport. 

‘Mandy is a former skier herself so she knows what it takes to compete at the top of the sport and is very supportive. It is hard for both of us when I’m spending so long away but that’s what I need to do at the moment. We both know that. If you want to be successful at anything you have to work hard and my work happens to involve me being away a lot.’ 

*The Winter Olympics in Beijing are due to run from February 4-20.