Davos provides step up for Iain

Last week I experienced the penultimate level of competition possible for a u21 skier when I competed in the Junior World Championships in Davos. (It is the penultimate because a small handful of athletes who took part, or opted to save themselves, will now be in Pyeongchang for the Winter Olympics, which has to be the ultimate test for an alpine skier.)

There were 5 individual events, with a maximum 4 places available per country. Britain had taken its full allocation of spaces in the men’s and ladies Giant Slalom and Slalom events, but I was the only athlete to compete in all 5 events. This meant that I was our only male athlete for the first half of the championships.

One of the first things I did after arriving in Davos was to go and find the ski room where the skis would be stored, tuned and waxed before each race. The various countries athletes were scattered across a number of hotels in Davos, and we were in a hotel, (and sharing a ski room), with the Americans. When I found the ski room, and American voice boomed out, “you must be the Brits service-man?”, I smiled and replied, “Yep, I’m the service man, physio, doctor, coach and athlete.”

All of the larger teams had numerous support people, sometimes having more coaches than athletes and always having a dedicated service man to tune the skis, (a task that took me around two hours a day each day of the championships.)

The opening event was the Downhill. This is the highest speed discipline in alpine skiing with very few turns and the longest skis. Most athletes in Davos will have exceeded 70mph in this event. In a field of 62, I came 51st, a little disappointed but I know this isn’t my main discipline, and I took in the experience knowing it could only help my confidence in the Super G and GS events, I reminded myself this was my first time skiing the slope, unlike a lot of the other athletes.

Next up was the Super G. Racing on the same piste as the Downhill, this event is slightly more technical, with more turns and a little less speed. I came a satisfying 36th out of 92, I didn’t manage to ski to my full potential but I knew I was getting closer to where I wanted to be.

In these first two events, I had benefited from the support of one of my coaches from my French private team, Orsatus, but with no funding and having to pay myself for a coach, I’d decided before the Champs began that I would complete the remainder of the events on my own. (I knew that I would never be completely alone, as I have developed strong friendships with athletes and coaches from various countries, particularly those from Chile, Spain and France).

On the day of the Alpine Combined event, I pictured myself as a lone wolf, hungry to make my mark. This discipline tests the overall skill set of the skier, with two runs requires skills from the two extremes of ski racing, one high speed Super G run, plus one technical, short turn slalom run. Slalom is not my best discipline, but I survived and did enough in the Super G to finish in 28th place out of a field of 99.

Giant Slalom is my strongest discipline. It is seen as the “base” from which the skills for each of the other disciplines must be developed. I skied two good runs and finished 31st out of 129, I wasn’t satisfied but I’ll be back next year, on top form.

The final event was the most technical of the disciplines, the slalom, and my least preferred. An exceptionally complex course was set on an extremely icy piste. In the end only 30 racers out of 123 managed to complete the course without missing a gate. I and each of my Team GB team mates were unfortunately in that majority who didn’t finish the race.

Looking back now, almost a week after the event, I am taking only positives out of the experience. The standard of competition was a step up on anything I’ve competed in before. I know where I need to work to make progress, and I know in a year’s time I will be faster and stronger and well positioned to improve on my 2018 results.

Davos was a heck of a lot of work, but I had some real fun too. There was a great night out that will stick in the memory for a long time to come, and I can truly say that I have friends from all around the world, including a few that have won World Championship medals, something not a lot of people my age can say.

Thank you for helping me on this journey,