The alpine slalom skier Dave Ryding insists that Britain’s blank medal tally so far at these Winter Olympics has only made him more determined to ride to the rescue by winning gold this week.
Ryding, who clinched his first World Cup victory in Kitzbühel last month, believes the Yanqing course and artificial snow suits his style of skiing. And the 35-year-old says he is prepared to “risk it for the biscuit” – in other words go for broke – when his competition starts in the early hours of Wednesday UK time.
“I am going to have to risk more than normal, but I am in the mindset that I will have to do or die,” said Ryding, who will be competing in his fourth Winter Games. “I’ve had a ninth place at the Olympics, so I have had a decent one, and there is no point going for another ninth. I may as well try to go better – and with slalom the only way is to risk it. The winner will take it all, and I have to go for it. There is no reason why not.”
Ryding learned to ski on a dry slope in Pendle, Lancashire that was full of sheep, who would sometimes run across while he was training. On other occasions they would, in his words, “do their business when we weren’t there – a rainy night and you would get a lot of splatters, it was horrible”.
However, learning on those dry ski slopes will, he believes, help on the artificial snow he finds himself facing in China. “I don’t know how to describe it other than it is icy and slippy, but when you get your edge into it it is unbelievably aggressive and grippy,” he added.
The man known as “the Rocket” also knows that the lack of a medal in the first 10 days has put pressure on him, and other members of the British squad that are still to compete. But he insists that with Team GB’s men’s and women’s curlers still in contention, and high hopes in the two- and four-man bob, Britain’s results could yet be turbocharged in the final week.
“Obviously we probably would have liked to medal already but these things are not just given out – there are a lot of open sports where anything can happen,” he said. “It is easy to watch and delve on the negatives but it isn’t all doom and gloom. I have seen much worse situations. As Brits we stick together and we are a hardy nation. I might get a T-shirt – keep calm and watch slalom.
“Charlotte Bankes has won three or four World Cups, is rarely off the podium, but on the day of the Olympics, one thing goes wrong and it is over. It is what it is. We do our best and everyone is human, whether it is me or you.”
There was better news for Team GB on Sunday as the men’s curling team beat China 7-6 before following that up with a 5-1 win against Denmark, while the women beat Denmark 7-2. But realistically their first shot of a medal is on Tuesday when Kirsty Muir, who finished fifth in the women’s freeski big air, is due to go off in the slopestyle, assuming she gets through qualifying on Monday.
But Ryding insists that if Team GB has no medals when he competes it will make him even more determined. “If it still happens that there are no medals when Wednesday comes I will be extra motivated,” he said.
“I will dig even deeper. I will do what I can. It is part of sport. I have been in positions where it is not going well for me and I have dug something out. Who knows? We give it our all.”
Ryding also conceded that the slalom was particularly open – with 14 people having made the podium in six World Cup races so far this season. “One of those guys who had a podium has to finish 14th, you know? It is as simple as that, but I know it is within me to win and I know I can be reassured I am in the form to do whatever on the day.”