Q&A WITH DAVE RYDING – KANDAHAR’S NUMBER 1 GBR SKI RACER
Q1. KR. Congratulations Dave on a hugely successful season on the World Cup tour. What was the highlight of your 2014/15 campaign?
DR. Thanks, it was a dream to stand in the start gate of six 2nd runs on the world cup circuit. I cannot describe the buzz and emotions involved, it was what dreams are made of. The highlight had to be the 2nd run at Schladming, 50,000 mad ski fans with air horns, flares, cow bells etc going crazy just before you leave the start gate was seriously intense!! It was a shame about the big mistake but the atmosphere was mind blowing.
Q2. KR. Last season was clearly a breakthrough for you and you’ve undoubtedly established yourself amongst the world’s elite. Are you able to identify what it was that led to such a successful season?
DR. After a disappointing season the season before (to my expectations) myself and especially my coach put in a lot of time identifying my weaknesses, and what it was that was coursing my technique to unravel on the more demanding tough world cup pistes. I spent the whole summer working on the European Glaciers, instead of going to the southern hemisphere, I was able to take a step back and rebuild aspects of my skiing without having the pressure to perform. I was able to make myself more technically solid, while maintaining the speed of my skiing. Come the season I was in good shape and also very fresh and ready to race, not having raced in the summer on snow. I would have to say I got technically better which was the biggest attribute to my showing on the world cup.
Q3. KR. What are your hopes and ambitions for next season?
DR. I will once again aim to improve my technical ability come the new season, I didn’t achieve improvement in all the areas I was hoping over last summer so there is still a lot of work to do to keep me achieving these results. All I can say is, as always, I will push myself 100% over the summer to come into next season better again and more solid to challenge the best skiers.
Q4. KR. How’s your training programme panning out in the lead up to next season – where are you training and when? Are there any changes to what you did last year? Who are you training alongside and are there any developments within your own support team?
DR. Every year my coach makes changes to the program, I believe you have to make sure that every year you try and do things better than the year before in order to give yourself the best chance to improve and not become stagnant doing the same things. While I don’t think there will be massive changes to last summers program we will tinker with the program to improve it. Basing the majority of our training in Hintertux in May, June and October and Saas Fee in August and September last year was really good. The conditions are awesome and the locations are perfect to allow us to focus on skiing and physical training in the afternoon.
Last year we joined partnership with the Finland ski Team and we will again be doing this next season, it gives me guys to train alongside and consistent feedback as to how I am skiing etc. We have been lucky to increase the team size which I think is fantastic for the whole of British Skiing, Alex Tilley will join the program over the summer with coach Noel Baxter and also we are very lucky to have been able to bring in a serviceman to help both of us prepare our skis… this doesn’t only bring in better tuning but it also allows me to focus more time and energy on the other aspects of training, without loosing time slaving in the ski room.
Q5. KR. Technically, what aspects of your skiing are you currently working on during the off-season? Are there any specific technical issues you’re focusing on, or do you simply focus on keeping the basics right on a consistent basis?
DR. No no, I focus very specifically on certain aspects of my skiing to try and improve them, right now I have elements of my left turn which are not fundamentally right so I need to work on these, and then try and get them solid before the season comes.
Q6. KR. What about your physical preparation. Can you describe the main areas of physical preparation for one of the world’s top slalom racers? How much importance does nutrition play as a part of this?
DR. At the level I have reached you have to tick all the boxes, for example, if you do not eat correctly you cannot physically train hard as your body doesn’t have the right energy sources to function at peak level, this also means you cannot recover as fast as you are starving the body of key nutrients, if you cant train hard off the slope you definitely can not train hard on the slopes especially as mostly you are at altitude therefore this means not only not being able to train as much to improve your skiing but also you get tired towards the end of a race run and make costly mistakes… it really is a domino effect, if you miss one box, it has a negative effect on you further down the line.
Q7. KR. What importance do you place on psychology and mental training? Tell us what you think about when you’re stood in the start gate? What is the right frame of mind for you to race with?
DR. I believe this aspect of performance is very personal, and differs massively from one individual to another. What works for one, definitely wont work for everyone. I have tried a bit of psychology work in the past, and I feel it can have big benefits for some people… for me, I like to work on psychology from my own experiences and try and evaluate myself internally and also improve things form experience… I believe you can get told something a million times, or you can get told what to do better over and over however until something in your mind clicks and realizes actually yes this is the right way to approach something you simply wont do it no matter who tells you and how many times they tell you. You have to be pretty willing to criticize yourself this way and make sure you learn from mistakes, you definitely cant go around thinking everything is perfect.
From racing a lot on the dry slopes I learnt massive amounts on the mental side of things without actually realizing at the time. Being put in the race situation week after week and having to stand at the top of a 2nd run defending a lead makes you pretty strong mentally (so long as you don’t keep making mistakes 2nd runs) The right frame of mind for me is to believe I can ski with full intensity but also making sure I do the right movements. I am constantly repeating to myself what I want to do while I am skiing down the course while I wait in the start gate.
Q8. KR. There is no short cut to success and you’re well known as one of the hardest workers in the business. Tell us how a day in the life of Dave Ryding pans out while on a typical out of season training camp? What’s your daily routine?
DR. I will go through how a day in Saas Fee works.. I wake up about 5.50 and have to be at the lift by 6.45, I will fuel my body with the usual porridge with dried fruit and eggs. I will train on the hill until around 12-12.30 before heading down and getting straight into some lunch. I usual have to tune my skis before 3.30 ish (not this year as we are fortunately able to have a ski technician) before we do some kind of physical training and recovery, straight back and scrape before dinner 6.30 7 ish, then I can relax with an early night around 9ish.
Q9. KR. You clearly have fond memories of your time on the dry slope circuit as a youngster. Can you identify how your experiences on the dry slopes have helped you get to where you are now?
DR. Just having the opportunity to ski every week makes a massive difference, OK its not exactly like snow, but if you make sure you ski with a good technique on the dry slope you can transfer it across to the snow. Many other nations ask how Im so fast on the flats on snow and it is because I know how to generate speed with the ski from the dry slopes. Also as I mentioned earlier just being put in a race situation every weekend toughens you up mentally!
Q10. KR. What is the one thing above all else that young British racers must do if they are to become successful?
DR. it’s the same as everything in life those that work hard at what they do succeed… the harder you work the better you will get.
Q11. KR. The nations team event at last seasons World Champs in Vail was a huge success. GBR did really well and were unlucky not to squeeze through against the Italians – you in particular were clearly pumped for the occasion! How much did you enjoy it and would you like to see more of this on the World Cup?
DR. We certainly put on a good performance, it was a massive buzz.. I love this form of racing and again its something I did a lot of on the dry slopes. You could say its my bread and butter. I would love to see more of this event in the World Cup, but its very hard to co-ordinate guys and girls circuits together at one time but Im sure its do-able. I was very happy to win my race, it’s a shame the others came so close but just got piped on the line. Maybe next time!!
Q12. KR. What are your thoughts on the state of ski racing in the UK? Are we in a good place or a bad place? What are we doing right and wrong? How do you think we can keep moving forward and secure a better future for young British ski racers?
DR. I get asked this question a lot, Im a big fan of British skiing, obviously things over the last 5 years have been hard, but also over the 5 years things have started to build back up again thanks to the hard work of people at the federation. If you look at the depth that we are starting to get back, as well as who we have ranked right up there in the world. I believe we are building to be very strong over the next 10 years. Obviously last season it was only me scoring world cup points… that will change in the next few years and into the future. Nothing is a guarantee of course but I believe British Skiing within 5 years will be considered at its strongest ever!
Best of luck with next season Dave – Kandahar is supporting you all the way!
Photo Credit: Delancey British Championships