Chorley’s Dave Ryding cast his mind back to his early days on the dry slopes at Pendle Ski Club as he calmed his nerves before making British alpine history in Kitzbuhel on Sunday.
The 30-year-old, who hails from Bretherton, became the first Briton to win an alpine World Cup medal since 1981 when he finished second behind home favourite Marcel Hirscher in front of 40,000 fans in the men’s slalom in Austria.
Leading after the first of two runs, Ryding revealed how he kept his focus in the starting box by drawing on the memories of his somewhat less glamorous early days back home.
Ryding said: “I was kept in the start box for two minutes and it reminded me of my early dry slope races when I was winning going into the second run.
“Pendle Ski Club might seem a long way from the Kitzbuhel World Cup but it had similar characteristics and I found myself drawing on those to keep focused and relieve a bit of the pressure.”
Ryding may have been eclipsed by four-time world champion Hirscher but his second place ensured the first British podium finish since Konrad Bartelski stunned Val Gardena to claim downhill silver in 1981.
And it marked a triumph of persistence for Ryding, a one-man band who has frequently defied expectations as well as financial issues to establish himself as a regular contender for a World Cup top 10 finish this season.
Ryding added: “It’s been a hell of a long road and sometimes it’s been almost too much to bear - I always dreamed of reaching the top 30 and when I missed out by one place and a single point two years ago I began to wonder if it was worth carrying on.
“This year I was focused on the top 15 and maybe the top 10 so this was ahead of schedule.
“Thankfully it was the right course and the right conditions and all the stars aligned to give me a result.” that I didn’t think was possible just yet.”
Ryding does not currently receive any direct funding from UK Sport - whose current £4.4million figure for British Ski and Snowboard is ring-fenced for its freestyle programme - but is helped by both BSS directly and private sponsorship.
He can expect those financial issues to ease after picking up prize money of just over £32,000, but Ryding - who is already in Schladming preparing for Tuesday’s famous night slalom races - says cash has never been his prime motivation.
“I’ve always skied because I love it and luckily I live on the road so I don’t have many bills to pay,” added Ryding. “Ever since I watched Alain Baxter win his (subsequently stripped) Olympic bronze in 2002, I have known it is all I wanted to do.
“I just hope there is another kid in Britain somewhere who watched me on TV yesterday and it ignites the same fire in them to go out and achieve great things in the sport.”
British Ski and Snowboard performance director Dan Hunt said he hoped Ryding’s success would dispel the myth that Britons are incapable of achieving significant results on snow.
Ryding’s result came one day after Andrew Musgrave secured a career-best sixth place finish in the men’s cross-country World Cup race in Ulricehamn, Sweden.
“From a performance director’s point of view it’s always exciting when athletes dispel myths with truths and that’s what happened with Dave’s and Andrew’s performances this weekend,” said Hunt.
“This notion that you can’t become a competitive skier because you’re British has gone. It sends a message to everyone that there is a clear pathway to the top, and that anything is possible.”