Kitzbuhel - By Angus Wills
WHAT AN EXPERIENCE.
Well, i didnt write this, but i dont think i could have said it any better myself! Over to Angus Wills.....
Ambition U16 Athletes Report:
‘Respect’ would be the one word I would use to describe what I’ve gained from my experiences at Kitbuhel these last few days. Quite frankly the TV doesn’t do the ‘Streif’ nearly enough justice, and the sight of it whilst driving in to town made me (Angus),Callum, Alex and Toby all question the sanity of any downhiller that would dare race down it. Next to it we could see the distant outline of our GS course that had been set for our race for the following day. In an instant I realized quickly that this wasn’t like any other international I had represented GBR at and was truly my first time feeling out right scared in the sport I do.
The U16 racers from seven strong alpine nations all raced on the ‘Ganslernhang’ piste, which we all know as the world cup slalom piste. For the giant slalom in the morning this meant pushing out of the world cup start gate, an action I never new was as brutal as it turned out to be. It was the iciest slope I have ever skied due to it being injected multiple times but did make for one hell of a course. All teams were intimidated by the conditions, some more than others, and I even saw the eventual winner for the guys give a slight shake of the head whilst looking down the course. With the course having a lot of terrain and a pretty gnarly second gate many crashed out or held back. A lot of people’s attitudes at the bottom reflected that of an U14 girl finishing her first Super-G and realizing that it wasn’t as bad as it looked.
Ultimately the ones that sucked it up and got on with the job did the best. The winners from both genders had far from perfect clean runs but attacked like crazy. I think once again this is where the likes of Austria and Germany pull away from other nations at children’s level. Whereas in British skiing you may come across some nice skiing which looks good and smooth and perfectly in control, the times it produces will never challenge those of someone who is an able skier and puts it on the line every run. On the one hand you have an Austrian guy/girl screaming whilst launching out the start gate, taking the most direct line he/she dares, paneling every gate and comes through the finish with his/her eyes blazing, and then you have an equally able skier to that Austrian guy/girl from Britain who skis a clean respectable run and comes through the finish 3 seconds off that same Austrian guy/girls time.
Now too often at international level Britain uses the excuse: “Well he/she is from Austria and skis five times a week!’” which as a statement is perfectly true but as an excuse I believe to be by no means acceptable. The fact that he/she skis 5 times a week isn’t going to change and the fact that you’re going to have to race hundreds of more Austrians throughout your skiing career isn’t going to change either.
Unfortunately this race at Kitzbuhel has only made me come to terms with this now in my last year of children’s international racing. All the other international events I have been lucky enough to represent my country at I have always used that exact same excuse to explain why I was 2 or 3 seconds off the pace. British racers need to accept that they are at a disadvantage and look for every way to start biting at the heels of the Austrians and the Swiss, the easiest way being starting to attack from the start to finish. I feel the whole environment that Kitbuhel gives a racer in the week of the world cup is really an eye opener to see the bigger picture of the sport of ski racing and what needs to be done to reach the top of it. I have no doubt that the event as a whole is far more rewarding than the likes of Topolino or Abetone, and the standard of skiing to be equal if not better than at Topolino and has given me a whole new perspective on the sport I do.
After the races we were lucky enough to get to inspect the downhill course with the director of race of the Hahnenkamm. This brings me back to ‘respect’. “Holy crap, this thing should be illegal!” were my first thoughts after slipping out the start gate. Having to ski it, let alone try and race it is beyond my understanding and will hopefully be the last time I stand in a start gate petrified of what is in front of me, and I wasn’t even racing it! We also were all lucky enough to see the first screening of ‘Streif- One hell of a ride’ in English, which unfortunately doesn’t come out until later this year. It is a documentary of the race, which is truly awesome. I would also highly recommend seeing Kitbuhel for yourself as it is only 50 minutes down the valley from Haus Tirol, I promise it won’t disappoint!
Angus Wills (U16 Ambition Race Team)