He had promised to “risk it for the biscuit” and while Dave Ryding ended up with crumbs in his fourth and final Olympics, he said he had no regrets. “It’s been a hell of a journey,” he said after his 13th-place finish in the men’s slalom, sporting a smile that could have lit up Beijing.
The popular 35-year-old, who learned his trade on a dry slope in Lancashire where wandering sheep and their slippy excrement were a frequent hazard, has developed into one of the world’s best alpine skiers. But a mistake while leading on his first run cost him the best part of a second and any chance he had of finishing his career with an Olympic medal.
“I started great in the first run and lost the rhythm,” he said. “My second run, I knew that I wasn’t quite flowing enough. You can feel it when you’re skiing. It felt more like a struggle than a flow. I gave it what I had which I always do, so I can’t be too disappointed. It was just what it was today.”
Ryding believes he has another year at the top – and after that wants to help bring through the next wave of British skiers. “If you can make it affordable you can keep more people in the sport, keep a bigger pool of athletes going through,” he said, although he admitted he wasn’t quite sure of the finer details of his grand plan. “I’m not being selfish but I still have a career to finish. I still have to put all my energy into that, I don’t know how we will do it yet, but if they want help, I will give it.”
As he spoke, the Frenchman Clement Noël was celebrating a brilliant gold medal, after a second run that was 0.99sec quicker than first round leader Johannes Strolz of Austria. Not that Strolz was complaining. He collected a silver to go with his Alpine combined gold – a staggering achievement given that last summer the 29-year-old thought his career as a top skier might be over and had started working with his local police force.
“I have to talk to coaches of the Austrian ski team and we have to make a good plan for the upcoming season, and then I will see how much time is left for some police work,” he joked.
With just four days left of a desperately disappointing Winter Games for Britain, Team GB’s chances of a medal appear to come down to the curling. The men’s team, led by Bruce Mouat, look the best bet and have already qualified for the semi-finals. However, Britain’s women continue to oscillate between the sublime and the below average, and a surprise 8-5 defeat to China on Wednesday means they need other results to go their way to make the final four.