Team GB skier Dave Ryding will not be spending too much time dwelling on his own personal safety when he arrives in the Russian city of Sochi this month for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
The build-up to the XXII Games has been marred by possible security fears after terrorists killed 34 people during twin bomb attacks on the nearby city of Volgograd in December.
Indeed only this week, the British Olympic Association (BOA) advised its athletes to wear ‘inconspicuous’ clothing when they travel to the southern Russian city.
Although there is no information to suggest that there is an increase in threat level, the BOA issued the guidelines as a precaution after UK officials warned that more terrorist strikes could occur before or during the Games.
Russia president Vladimir Putin has promised a safe Games and Winter Olympics chief Dmitry Chernyshenko dismissed any concerns by insisting the city will be the “the most secure venue on the planet”.
Twenty-seven-year-old Ryding, who will be Team GB’s lone Alpine skier in Sochi, admits he has no time to worry about any potential terrorist strikes.
In actual fact, he won’t be flying out to Sochi for his particular event – the downhill slalom – until the second week of the Games.
But as he revealed to the Evening Post this week, the only reason behind his late arrival is to ensure he is in the best possible shape for his discipline – which is one of the final events of the Games – and not because of any worries about threats to his safety.
“I am sure they will be stepping up the security for the Games,” said Ryding, who finished 27th at the Vancouver Games four years ago – his first Olympic experience.
“It is the Winter Olympics after all so you would expect it to be safe. I am not worried – touch wood.
“It’s not something I should be worrying about.
“I have got my own event to worry about and that really is all that is in my mind at the moment.
“Hopefully I will be all right!
“I am not actually flying out until later on during the Games.
“My event is one of the last to take place during the two weeks, so I will be missing the opening ceremony and all that stuff.
“It makes sense to stay away and prepare away from that sort of environment and everything which goes on.
“I don’t actually think there are that many training facilities over there so that wouldn’t be ideal if I was to be there in Sochi for the entire two weeks.
“Not being able do too much would not be great for me, but by staying away I can keep up with my training.
“When I competed in the last Olympics, I was there for pretty much the entire duration.
“But that was a different situation with it being in Canada.
“There were issues with regards to being jet-lagged so I had to make sure I was over there in good time to acclimatise.
“But there will be no such problems this time around. I will be able to acclimatise in plenty of time before my event begins.”
Ryding, who hails from the small village of Bretherton, near Leyland, admits it’s exciting times as he prepares to experience the unique atmosphere of an Olympic Games for the second time in his career.
“My dream has always been to compete at the Olympics,” he said
“But there is a lot of hard work involved.
“It’s not as easy as it looks.
“Going to the Olympics is sort of the reward for all the hard work that you have put in.”
Although the prospect of winning a medal looks a long shot, the unpredictable nature of downhill slalom means nothing can be ruled out.
Ryding, who first learned to ski, aged six, at Pendle Ski Club, is confident he can improve upon his final placing four years ago and finish inside the top-20 – at least.
“Obviously I am very excited at the moment,” Ryding said.
“It’s my second Olympics and it should be a great experience once again.
“Hopefully, I will be able to raise my game on the day and perform well.
“It’s hard to say really what I can achieve. With slalom – the nature of the sport – anything can happen.
“There are so many variables in the sport and there are so many good skiers out there.
“It’s all about doing your best on the day and hoping that is good enough to give you a good result.”
Having already been to an Olympic Games, Ryding believes that will take the pressure off his shoulders when he steps up to the start line in Sochi.
“I think having the experience of Vancouver will help me,” he said.
“Obviously, I have done it before – it’s not a new experience for me.
“There’s not as much pressure now because I know what it’s all about.
“I had a credible result four years ago, but I want to step up my game for this Olympics.
“I feel like now I can concentrate on producing my best skiing on the day rather than getting too nervous about finishing the slalom.
“It is a very technical event and mistakes can happen.
“But having had experience, I can relax and really attack the course and do what you know you can do.”
Since appearing in Vancouver, Ryding believe he has improved on the slopes immeasurably.
He is currently ranked No.1 in the UK and became the first British skier to win an overall title when he won the Europa Cup circuit – the second tier of alpine skiing – last year.
“Every year since the last Olympics, I have been getting better and better,” he said.
“I just try to keep working hard and look to improve.
“Last season has given me the belief that I can mix it with the best skiers in the world.
“If I ever start to doubt myself then it’s a good reference point to remember.
“No British skier has ever won a Europa Cup title and, to be honest, I didn’t think I would either. But I’ve spent so much time on snow and that has really paid off.”
Ryding will enjoy a rare weekend at home with his family in Bretherton, before turning his attentions to achieving his Olympic ambitions.