Dave Ryding is first British skier to win Alpine skiing World Cup race

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KITZBÜHEL, Austria — Dave Ryding kneeled in the finish area and kissed the snow. A few meters away, his coach and ski technician cried in happiness.

British ski racing had been waiting for this moment for over five decades.

Ryding had just become the first British winner in the 55-year history of the Alpine skiing World Cup on Saturday, triumphing in one of the classic slaloms of the men’s circuit.

“I guess my name will be in history now,” Ryding said.

Sixth after the opening run, Ryding pumped his fist a few times when he took the lead after his strong final run in dense snowfall on one of the circuit’s most challenging slalom courses.

He then witnessed how the last five racers all made big mistakes and finished well behind — or not at all.

“I had so much emotion when I finished, now I just don’t know what to say. I’m normally not lost for words but now I am,” Ryding said right after the race.

His coach, Tristan Glasse-Davies, and his ski technician, Jai Geyer, loudly cheered from the coaches’ area.

“It means everything, it’s incredible. No one deserves it more than Dave,” said Geyer, a former ski racer who retired in 2016 and competed on the second-tier European Cup.

“He is a solid, intelligent skier,” Geyer added. “He wasn’t actually feeling very well today, he had a bit of a cold. It means so much to British skiing. Dave, winning against the odds, it’s incredible.”

Lucas Braathen, who spectacularly won the slalom in Wengen last week coming from 29th position after the first run, finished 0.38 seconds behind in second, followed by Norwegian teammate Henrik Kristoffersen, who improved from 24th after the opening run.

Ryding’s triumph came five years after the Briton earned his first career World Cup podium at the same iconic venue in the Austrian Alps, finishing runner-up to Austrian great Marcel Hirscher.

Ryding had two more podium results, most recently in Adelboden a year ago, before finally clinching his maiden win.

“I’m 35 now but I never stopped believing. I never stopped trying,” Ryding said. “And to bring the first victory for Great Britain in a World Cup in Kitzbühel, I don’t know if dreams are made better, it’s some place.”

The win crowns a remarkable career for Ryding, who learned to ski on dry slopes and only skied on snow for the first time at the age of 12.

“I didn’t grow up on snow, I grew up on plastic ski slopes, which were 11 seconds long,” he recalled.

Ryding made his World Cup debut in Alta Badia in 2009 and was competing in his 97th race Saturday.

“I think I’m everyone’s second-favorite skier. Everyone knows my story, it’s totally different,” he said.

Ryding became the fifth different winner in the fifth men’s slalom of the season as the top-ranked racers after the first run all struggled in dense snowfall on the demanding course.

First-run leader Alex Vinatzer of Italy dropped to 18th, and French pre-race favorite Clément Noël went from second to 15th.

Norway’s Sebastian Foss-Solevåg and Italy’s Giuliano Razzoli, who were third and fourth, respectively, both straddled a gate and failed to finish.

Defending overall champion Alexis Pinturault also straddled a gate early in his second run as the Frenchman became one of 11 racers who skied out in the final leg.

Luke Winters, wearing bib No. 38, was the top American finisher in 11th. Teammate Benjamin Ritchie also qualified for the second run but skied out halfway down the course.

Manuel Feller, the top-ranked Austrian in slalom, sat out the race after testing positive for COVID-19.

The slalom was initially scheduled for Sunday but organizers swapped it with a downhill, which could not have been staged Saturday because of the snowfall.

There is one more slalom before the Beijing Olympics: a night race in Schladming on Tuesday.

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Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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