Chorley’s Winter Olympic flag-bearer Dave Ryding in pledge to Alain Baxter

It is two decades since Alain Baxter won then lost his Olympic slalom bronze – now Chorley’s Dave Ryding has vowed to share any medal he wins with his mentor.

By James Toney
Friday, 4th February 2022, 10:14 am

Baxter held the distinction of being the only Brit to win an Olympic alpine skiing medal for approximately one month, before a failed drugs test forced him to return his podium place from the Salt Lake City Games.

It was a cruel and unfair blow, with the British Olympic Association and skiing’s world governing body pleading his cautionary case.

Baxter tested positive for banned stimulant methamphetamine, not realising a tiny but decisive difference in nasal inhalers sold in the United States and Europe.

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Dave Ryding during the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Men's Slalom in Kitzbuehel last month (Getty Images)

“I still remember watching him win the medal and it ignited something in me, whether it was passion or excitement, thrill. I don’t know what it was but I can still remember getting this feeling,” said Bretherton ace Ryding.

“I remember growing up watching him, I was fortunate enough to do a few months before he retired on his team, so I knew him quite well. He is working with my team now, as one of the assistant coaches.

“Whatever I achieve, Alain for me will be above because that is how you perceive your heroes. If he didn’t do what he did in Salt Lake, who knows if I would have had the drive to do what I did in Kitzbuehel.

“What went on after that has proven that the medal shouldn’t have been taken away and it was such unfortunate circumstances.

“Hopefully no one has to go through it again because it affected our sport and affected him massively. It was crazy unfortunate and he was proven innocent. If I were to get a medal, the best thing I could do would be to cut it in half and give him half of it.”

Ryding arrives in Beijing having claimed a historic World Cup victory in Kitzbuehel last month and carries the British flag with former world champion curler Eve Muirhead in today’s opening ceremony.

Baxter made his Olympic debut in Vancouver 12 years ago and will be attending the showpiece for the first time, Covid regulations meaning he had to fly into China earlier than initially planned.

And Team GB expect to have more athletes marching at the Bird’s Nest than they did at the Tokyo last summer, with every team represented.

“I never dreamed of having a moment like this it was a shock to be asked,” added Ryding, 35. “You never really expect it until you get the phone call.

“For skiing it’s a really proud day too and hopefully puts us back into the limelight because that’s what we need as a sport.”

Ryding has moved into the Olympic Village in Yanqing, 60 miles to the frozen north of Beijing. He will spend the next week fine-honing his skills, with his event in just under two weeks.

Asked if he was worried about the plunging temperatures – it was minus 21 degree on the piste on Thursday –he said: “Not really but in those spandex lycra suits it can get a bit chilly.”

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