Dave Ryding says there is nothing particularly special about him, describing himself as “not some kind of superhuman”, despite becoming Britain’s first ever alpine skiing World Cup winner.
The 35-year-old is preparing for his fourth Olympic Games after making British sporting history when he won the slalom title in Kitzbuhel recently, an achievement which has seen his profile rise to higher than it has ever been before.
The reaction has left Ryding “exhausted” and “pumped” in equal measure. He is one of the most popular athletes on the circuit and known as one of the nicest and down to earth, too. His journey has been extraordinary, from the dry slopes of Pendle in Lancashire to the top of the sport.
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“I'm just a normal, everyday guy. I like to have a laugh. I love to go to our cafe that I help my fiancee and other people run in the village,” he told Eurosport.
I'm not some kind of superhuman, I just dedicated my life to slalom skiing and whether you are a hairdresser or a lawyer or whatever, if you want to be the best, dedicate yourself to it and you can become the best.
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Ryding puts his achievements down to having a strong work ethic instilled by his parents from a young age, but he says it is learning to be disciplined to deliver consistent runs which has been the biggest difference over the past few years, and he hopes that will pay off in Beijing, too.
“It's something I worked a lot on. I don't know if it goes back to my dad, he always used to say, remember, Dave, every action has an equal and opposite reaction,” he said.
“The discipline is for my upper body and my hand carriage. It was just to remind myself to keep everything disciplined, and then you can let your skis do the talking.
The way I am is just focused on trying to do well, anywhere, whether it's a game of Monopoly or something else.
“Now I can start to think, right, you're going to your fourth Olympics, and the pride just when you get to the Athletes Village and see the other Team GB members, that's when it sinks in.
“Team GB is loved in Britain, rightly so, and you know, I still play the lottery because I still dream of winning that big one and we're helped by the lottery players. I think everyone feels the sense of community or family in the team.”
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Ryding’s rise to the top, from those who know how tough dry slopes are, has been widely praised by the likes of Mikaela Shiffrin - and there is another legend who is hugely impressed.
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“It's not your stereotypical road to the top. One of the things that you'd be surprised with is actually Marcel Hirscher, his mum's from the Netherlands. His dad used to coach in the Netherlands on a dry slope,” he said.
“In one of his interviews after I had a podium, he said how amazed he was. He literally said it's the kind of stuff you'd have outside your front door to wipe your ski boots off on.
“I'm just glad that I don't have to say anymore that you can achieve things from the dry slope, because they've seen it with their own eyes, and there's nothing more powerful than that.”
Ryding will be settling into his temporary surroundings in Beijing ahead of the slalom competition on February 16, and he is not putting any pressure on repeating his recent success.
“I've had a ninth in the Olympics, which is a good box to tick. So hopefully that'll free me up, release me to try and go better than that, whether I do or don't, I'll get on the plane home and think you know, I won Kitzbuhel, which is nuts still!
Whether we're sitting next to the bobsled guys at dinner, who made me look like a stick insect, or there's an ice skater on the other side, we're all there together. We're normally a small team on the slopes, when you go to the Olympics, you're a big team. That brings a lot of more energy and passion.
“I just want to be able to stand in the start gate knowing that I'm skiing well, I'm comfortable, and I can race as fast as I can. Naturally, the spotlight's got brighter on me. That's part and parcel of sport. If you're the best in the world, the spotlight is right on you. What you can't forget is the process that got you there.”
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