17th November 2023
Dave Ryding is about to embark on his 15th World Cup season. Speaking to the BBC he said he has no intention of retiring. NEW
Dave Ryding has finished on the podium in a World Cup race at least once in the past three seasons and in 2022 became the first Briton – and oldest competitor – to win a World Cup slalom.
“The 20-year-old, 25-year-old me would have given anything to be in the position I am in now,” Ryding, who turns 37 next month,” told BBC Sport.
“It would be a disservice to my younger self not to give it another go when I’ve got it in me,” he said, adding that he will carry on competing “until the legs fall off”.
Ryding will start his season in Gurgl on Saturday, the first time the Austrian resort has hosted a World Cup slalom.
Austria is a happy hunting ground for Ryding as three of his six World Cup podiums – a win and two second places – have come at Kitzbuhel, which holds its annual race in January in front of tens of thousands of fans and a fair few celebrities.
PlanetSKI’s James Cove spoke to Dave in Austria a couple of winters back in Covid times.
The 5-strong British alpine team had a funding black hole of £800,000 after UK Sport removed them from the World Class Programme, and the athletes set up crowdfunding to continue with their ski careers.
We reported on it at the time on PlanetSKI:
“It started tough with the funding thing,” Ryding said.
“There was a lot of mental stress going on, which certainly wasn’t easy to deal with through the season.”
Ryding said the team cannot afford a physiotherapist but have “enough to have the bare minimum, which is never just what you want to have”.
He said: “Compare our budget to the Swiss team, who we are out here training with, or the Austrians.
We’re in the couple of hundred thousand and they’re in the £20-30million, so it’s a big difference.”
Ryding, though, can also see some positives.
“We’re quite a small team, so we can do what we want more than these big teams can and we can be more flexible,” he said.
“We have a much better environment within the team because we’re much closer as athletes and staff.”
This season he hopes “to be the best I can be”, adding: “If you do that, you can’t do much more.
“I have the oldest win, which is something I’m quite proud of. If I get the ball rolling early, who knows what I can achieve?
“It’s a funny sport in that if you get going, sometimes you can’t be stopped.”
Before Ryding, a Briton had finished on a World Cup podium only once in an alpine race when Konrad Bartelski was second in a downhill in Val Gardena, Italy, in 1981.
Ryding, whose success has helped changed the perception of British skiing, said: “Podiums are a talked-about thing now, which is cool and great for the next generation.”
He predicts that team-mates Billy Major and Laurie Taylor can push on this season.
“They keep me on my toes – more so,” Ryding said.
“They’re rapid, so it’s looking good for British skiing. There’s no reason why week in and week out there can’t be three of us in the top 30 and better.”
After competing at his fourth Winter Olympics in Beijing in 2022, Ryding said it would be his last.
But could he make the start hut in Milan-Cortina in 2026?
“I don’t know. I’m still here. That’s all I can say,” he added.
“I can’t think long term any more because it’s just not realistic. But I can think yearly and then be in the best shape I can each year.”