This Saturday on the famous “Ganslern” slalom hill at Kitzbuhel, 35-year old David Ryding of Great Britain broke multiple barriers.
Perhaps the most important to him, was becoming the UK’s first World Cup winner in 55 years of the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup.
Ironically, his win came within the week of our sport celebrating 100 years since the first ever slalom race, run in Mürren, Switzerland. Alpine ski racing was founded by the Brits, with founding icon Sir Arnold Lunn of the Kandahar Ski Club codifying the rules for the sport in 1921 and the first race run in January/ 1922.
Planet Ski provides a thorough summary of David’s story – a truly remarkable pathway to the top of the podium and an inspiration to any young athlete and their family who believe they can succeed. Dave overcame multiple barriers through an unconventional route that should be an example for all – and a lesson to those who administer sport. (link to story below)
Why Dave’s Hahnenkamm win so remarkable?
– he started on a plastic slope at age 8
– on snow at a ‘relatively’ late age
– 1st top 30, age 26
– 1st World Cup podium, age 30
– 1st World Cup win, age 35
The lessons to be learned: all too often todays athlete pathway is ‘shaped’ by those who forecast “medal potential” and marshal precious financial resources based on these metrics. But the real measure of athletic success is shaped by:
1) the personal commitment to excellence by the athlete
2) long-term development planning
3) strong athletic programs, including great technical leadership
Sport is a dynamic, ever-changing environment. In skiing, tennis, football, golf, athletics, swimming and so many more, age is no longer a ‘limitation’ to success. We can find mature athletes breaking age barriers – and while many were successful from an early age, many were not.
Ryding was not alone this past weekend in setting new benchmarks. 41-year old Johan Clarey of France placed 2nd in the Hahnenkamm downhill.
The greatest tragedy of sport, is to end a career based on ‘the probability of future medal potential’. Ryding and others prove there are better metrics, including progression, careful evaluation of ranking and experience, how to build strong team cohorts that spawn sustained athletic success and team culture. Age is not a metric that should be used to measure the potential of an athlete that continues to evolve, mature and lead.
A truism of sport: if an athlete is not in the start gate, they will not win.
Link to Planet Ski Story about David Ryding: https://planetski.eu/2022/01/22/the-dave-ryding-story/
Superb piece, Ken, that provides a valuable perspective on a highly emotional event. Like thousands of others — whether or not they have followed Dave’s career like I have — his win was beyond inspirational!
thanks Ken for this great piece. So true !!!