Season 2016/2017 could not have gone better for the Kandahar Racing team.  Though there was some doubt about the snowfall across the alps this winter, this did not hinder the determination of all our athletes who were fortunate to get some fantastic training and racing conditions from the start.

We took 60 kids to Norway for our summer camp this year.  This was an amazing opportunity to build on our first full season as a team in 2015/2016 and gave us a chance to go back to basics with some of our Kandahar regulars.  It was a brilliant environment for all ages to develop their training and improve their skills across all the disciplines (Slalom, GS, Super G and even some Ski Cross).  We were able to train all day on the snow, before coming down to the little village of Jondal to do fitness on the beach and jump in the Fjord to finish! Such a good time was had by all that we are returning for a longer camp this Summer.

The rest of the pre-season training continued to go well as we returned for our October training camp in Saas Fee, Swizerland.  The biggest change for this camp was the addition of our new performance director and coach Sam Liddell, an ex British team coach who recently returned from seven seasons with teams in Canada.  Sam’s experience and depth of knowledge has certainly helped to keep Kandahar Racing moving on its upward trajectory.  A newfound level of professionalism is being brought into all aspects of athlete life and training.

After Christmas we trained in Kaprun, Austria before our first set of races of the season.  It is always an exciting but nerve wracking time for everyone, and just to make the conditions more challenging we were in -20 degrees for the majority of it!  We did not want our athletes to focus too much on podiums at these races, but rather gain experience and to practice what we had been working on in training.  We were of course delighted when Elliot Bennett scooped up multiple podiums in U14s at both the Ambition and Evolution races.

On to Bormio for the English Champs and Kandahar’s first block of full time training with a tutor to keep up with school work in the build up to the races.  We were very fortunate to have Alison Mowbray, a silver medalist in the Womens Quadruple Skull at the 2004 Athens Olympics, and fully qualified teacher.  She was joined by Liz Bond to take care of the prep school kids, which meant that all age groups were able to utilize the staff on a one to one basis as well as learning how to self study.

The training in Bormio gave us a fantastic opportunity to consolidate some of our pre-season hard work with the experience gained at the races in Austria in January.  The best part was being able to train on the same piste and next to where the races were being held.  With a very competitive field, it was the first major championships for a lot of our kids and it was great to see some of them really take on board the training and not let the pressures around them change their performances.  In every category from U10s all the way to U16s we saw some fantastic performances, again Elliot Bennett walking away with a few more podiums and the U14 English GS title to his name!

The season wrapped up once again in Tignes for the British Championships.  After the success of our full time program in Bormio, we continued with the same plan.  Training in the mornings, often on the race hill itself, with free skiing after lunch and school in the afternoon with Alison.   We had two weeks of perfect conditions, fantastic weather and massive improvements were made by all.

A couple of notable performances from the championship must be mentioned.  Izzy Lander, competing in her first year of the U16 girls came 3rd in the National Champs Slalom.  This was a massive achievement in a competitive age group of girls, some of which are now moving into FIS.  Elliot Bennett, having been picking up podiums throughout the season did not let the pressure get to him and scooped up the double in one day.  He lifted the Super G and Giant Slalom U14 titles.  Our U12s and U10s skied a Giant Slalom and Combi race and we are very excited about the level of talent coming through at this age. Special mention to Sebastian Ackerley for coming 2nd in the U12 GS and Grace Bennett 6th in the U12 Combi race.

No sooner than we look back on the winter we have just had, we find ourselves flying into the first camp of the new season in just over a month.  We head back to Norway in July and we cannot wait to get back to the hard work both on and off the snow.  Next season we are excited to be growing Kandahar Racing into the FIS age group with a first year FIS program and an Elite program that will be running alongside some of our junior camps with the likes of Rob Poth and Fraser Middleton, current British Team members.

Pat Shepherd