From Pendle to Pyeongchang, Dave Ryding has come a long way

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Dave Ryding heads into the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in two minds about the near-miss which cost him in his place in British alpine history.

Ryding was on course to claim an incredible victory in the opening slalom World Cup of the season in Levi late last year when he held a lead of over half a second before crashing out.

The 31-year-old had already declared his intentions by grabbing a silver medal on the famous Kitzbuhel course last January – the first man to claim a World Cup alpine podium since Konrad Bartelski in 1981.

And when the agony eased Ryding – who admits he “wasn’t very good on snow” when he first started skiing on his local dry slope in Pendle – saw that he could take plenty of positives from the experience.

Ryding told Press Association Sport: “The whole thing took a long time to sink in and my friends didn’t seem to know whether to congratulate or commiserate with me.

“But when I stopped to think about it, I had been leading a World Cup race by over half a second and it showed that on my day I have the capability to compete with anybody.”

Another stellar season has ensured Ryding will head to the Olympics as a justifiable – if outside – medal bet which is a remarkable feat in itself for a one-man-band who began his career in such resolutely non-alpine surroundings.

Ryding added: “It’s a bit different up at Pendle. When the weather turns it can give you a nasty head-wind and driving rain, and all the sleet and fog definitely helps build your character.

“It never snowed more than an inch and that was just as well, because initially I wasn’t very good on snow. I would go on the dry slope, then I’d have to compete on snow and I’d get whupped.

“I didn’t even make it onto the British Ski team until I was 20 – it took me so long to learn the snow aspect of it. That’s why it’s taken time and that’s why I’m reaching where I am in my early thirties.”

Ryding, who received long-overdue funding from UK Sport after his podium success, was 16 years old when he watched Alain Baxter win slalom bronze in Salt Lake City in 2002, only for it to be subsequently stripped in a doping controversy.

He added: “I can still remember watching Alain skiing to that medal despite the unfortunate situation afterwards. Things like that light a fire in you and give you something to believe, and something to aim for.”

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