KITZBUEHEL, Austria â€” Some well-timed paternal advice helped downhill skier Erik Read to the best finish of his career.
Read’s father, Canadian skiing legend Ken Read, spoke to his son after qualifying in the first run of the World Cup slalom Sunday at the famed course in Kitzbuehel, Austria. Erik Read was 4.55 seconds faster in his second run, finishing seventh in a total of 1:47.15.
“He likes to stay away from it, but after my first run, I’d qualified, and he came over and said ‘let it rip now that you’re in there,'” said the younger Read, who is from Calgary. “It’s pretty cool to do it here in Kitzbuehel, especially with the history my dad’s had here.
“This is probably the toughest slalom to do it in. So I’m pretty stoked. What a cool day.”
It’s just the latest triumph in the best season of the 25-year-old Read’s career that includes three-top 10 finishes in World Cup events, twice in Giant Slalom and once in alpine combined. He says he owes that to a renewed focus on the minutiae of preparation.
“Going in to the off-season this year what I really wanted to do was nail down the details, mentally, my equipment, what I wanted to change in my skiing and my fitness in the gym,” Read said. “I think this year is a culmination of all that. I’m able to get in the start gate and really trust in myself and the work I put in and just let it go.”
Before the season began, Read had a stated goal of two top-30 finishes and made it within his first two races in Giant Slalom. Now he’s having to adjust his own expectations.
“I wasn’t quite ready for that, but that’s something I still need to work on,” Read said. “Now I can really compete with some of the best in the world.”
Five-time overall champion Marcel Hirscher prevented Dave Ryding from becoming the first British skier to win a World Cup race. The Austrian used a stunning second run to win the slalom of the classic Hahnenkamm races, while Ryding matched the best World Cup result by a British skier, set by Konrad Bartelski, who finished runner-up in a downhill in Val Gardena, Italy, in December 1981.
“It’s just a dream. I was nervous, I just told myself, ‘Do what you have to do,'” said Ryding, who is from Bretherton, a small village in Lancashire, England. “It definitely felt like a win, something I will remember for the rest of my life.”
Leading a race after the opening run for the first time in his career, Ryding avoided major mistakes, but lost several tenths of his 1.09-second lead over Hirscher at every split in his final run. Hirscher was in ninth place after the opening run but finished the race 0.76 ahead to claim his 20th career slalom win, and 42nd overall.
Alexander Khoroshilov of Russia, who regularly trains together with Ryding in Austria, was 1.11 back in third. Toronto’s Phil Brown was 23rd in 1:48.84.
“I have to say hats off to Hirscher, he was untouchable,” Ryding said about the Austrian, who stretched his overall lead and went top of the discipline standings again, overtaking slalom World Cup champion Henrik Kristoffersen.
The Norwegian had skied out in the opening run, failing to finish a slalom run for the first time in more than two years. In that stretch, Kristoffersen won 11 of the 21 races.
This season, at age 30, Ryding is enjoying his breakthrough on the World Cup, four years after winning the slalom title of the lower-tier Europa Cup circuit.
He earned his maiden top-10 result by placing sixth in the first slalom of the season in Levi, Finland, in November, and followed up by coming seventh in Zagreb, Croatia, in the first race of 2017.
“If the season stopped now, I would be over the moon. I just keep trying, that’s all I can do,” said Ryding, who is nicknamed “The Rocket.”
The result left Gordon Cleaver the only British winner in the long-stretching history of the Hahnenkamm races. In 1931, more than three decades before the Alpine skiing World Cup was founded in 1967, Cleaver won a combined event to become the first â€” and to date only â€” British winner in the Austrian ski resort.
The men’s World Cup continues in Austria with another slalom in Schladming on Tuesday.
With files from The Associated Press
The Canadian Press