If Dave Ryding was to become the first Briton to win a medal in 82 years of alpine skiing at the Winter Olympics, even he accepts it would be a story of truly fanciful proportions.
“Well, it would be unique all right,” chuckles the 31-year-old Lancastrian as he recalls the long road to becoming Britain’s best-ever ski racer in the Games’ marquee sport.
For starters, Ryding is the only man in the upper echelons of World Cup ski racing to have learnt his trade not on snow, but on a dry slope in the English countryside.
Ryding was a late developer, still training on an artificial piste at 20 — but last year had a breakthrough when he finished second in a World Cup slalom race on the famous Hahnenkamm course in Kitzbühel, equalling Konrad Bartelski’s record for the best-ever finish by a British racer.
It was a remarkable achievement by Ryding, who was first coached by his dad Carl, who himself was a self-taught skier and gave up his job selling women’s underwear on a market stall to retrain as a gas engineer so he could fund his son’s ambitions.
One family skiing holiday per year once represented Ryding’s main chance to practise on snow. “I did only five, maybe six weeks a year on snow until I was 15 or 16, which is why it’s taken me so long to get where I am. I’ve always been catching up.”
The result at Kitzbühel in 2017 proved transformative. “Once you’ve done that, you want more — to get that win that no Briton has ever achieved.”
A teenage Ryding watched Scottish skier Alain Baxter win slalom bronze in 2002 at Salt Lake City — only to have the medal taken away after cold medicine caused him to fail a drugs test.
“I decided then that I wanted an Olympic medal,” says Ryding. “Can I do it? Well, it’s best that I let my skis do the talking.” Interview by Ian Chadband
When can I watch Dave Ryding compete in the Winter Olympics?
Ryding will be live on BBC1 and Eurosport from 1am on Thursday 22nd February, in the slalom skiing competition.