Alpine Skiing

BY LIEUTENANT COLONEL RUPERT KITCHING MBE

CHAIRMAN ALPINE

2019 ISSSC Alpine

The 2019 Inter-Service Alpine Championships were another huge success with some outstanding performances from the Ladies and Men competing at this final Alpine event in the military winter calendar.  It was fantastic to have the Australian Defence Force teams on board this year, with the reciprocal opportunity to compete at their Combined Services Championships over the summer. This year was no different from previous years with a seriously competitive, highly capable field and some superb courses testing the athletes to the hilt. Unfortunately, several top-seed fallers in the early speed events alongside some impressive depth within the Army teams rather sewed-up the Combined competition; with the Army being crowned both Ladies and Men’s Combined Team Champions as well as securing the team honours for each Alpine discipline.  The Ladies Individual Combination was extremely close but Captain Elizabeth Lambert (Australian Defence Force) secured victory with wins in the Super G, GS and Super Combined narrowly edging out Lt Sophie Nicholls (Army) in the final race. The Men’s Individual Combined competition was dominated and won by Private Rob Poth (Army) with individual wins in Super G, GS, Super Combined and Slalom but being beaten in the Downhill by Sapper Euan Kick (Army).

None of this would be possible without the continued support and dedication of the Méribel ESF who delivered some superb courses and world-class hill support for which we remain extremely grateful. Heavy snow at the beginning of the week delayed Downhill training but a phenomenal effort from the ESF and hill team enabled the full programme of races to be delivered, albeit with a slightly shorter than normal Downhill course; it was no less challenging. As flexible as ever they somehow manage to make the congested programme on the Stade work seamlessly; swiftly transitioning several times daily between Alpine and Telemark competitions, day and night races, a snowboard event and various Sponsor races – all taken in their stride and with a smile on their faces. I have no doubt they will deliver again this year and my sincere thanks to Yannick and his team for their unstinting support and advice.

2019 Delancey British National Championships

The UK Armed Forces Alpine team was selected at the end of the Championships and went on to compete at the Delancey British National Ski Championships, which were held in Tignes for the fifth year in row.  Seeking to balance form, consistency, availability and single-service equities, the 2019 Alpine team consisted of: Sqn Ldr Charlie Baker (RAF), Capt Hollie Suff (Army), Sqn Ldr Howard Fielder (RAF), Lt Rob Clarke (RN), LCpl Hayden Grand (Army), Spr Euan Kick (Army) and Spr Duncan Kuwall (Army). Pte Rob Poth (Army) also raced but had been selected for the GB Europa Cup Team.  In a change this year, we decided to recruit a Team Manager for the UKAF Alpine team in the form of WO2 John McClelland ably assisted by Sqn Ldr Caitlin Wroe (RAF); this management team provided invaluable support and allowed the athletes to fully focus on the racing. Additionally, we secured the support of Kandahar Racing (based in Tignes) who provided a five-day training programme prior to the Championships as well as slope-side race coaching / advice for the duration of the competition. These two additional elements delivered exponential value and helped, alongside some superb skiing, to improve on previous year’s achievements to deliver the strongest set of results for a UKAF team at the National Championships to date.

A world-class field including French, Spanish and German development squads competed alongside the GB snowsport athletes and British racers delivering an extremely high-end competition. The UKAF Alpine team did us proud with superb results across the board. Of note: Spr Duncan Kuwall delivered an impressive performance accruing the following results: 1st Junior Slalom, 1st (Non-GB Team) Slalom, 3rd Junior Downhill, 2nd U21 Downhill, 2nd U21 Super G. Spr Euan Kick took 1st Non-GB Team place in GS. Whilst not racing for the UKAF it would be remiss not to mention Pte Rob Poth’s superb performance to be crowned British National Slalom Champion.

Australian Defence Force Snowsports Championships 2019

The invitation to compete at the Australian Army and Defence Force Snowsports Championships on Mount Perisher in August/September 2019 provided another superb opportunity for some of our UKAFWSA athletes to showcase their skills. The Alpine Team consisted of Lt Sophie Nicholls (Army), SAC Barney Rudge (RAF) and Marine Stu Downey (RM). Once again, they delivered a comprehensive and consistent performance with Lt Nicholls and Marine Downey taking the Ladies and Men’s (respectively) Individual Combination titles with podium finishes across the disciplines. SAC Rudge unfortunately injured his shoulder early in the competition but managed to recover sufficiently to take 1st place in the ADF Slalom. An amazing experience and opportunity which I have no doubt will be strongly contested for in the years to come.

2020 ISSSC Alpine

Looking forward to this year, Meribel veterans will note that the Alpine Race programme has not changed.  You can look forward to 3 days of Downhill, followed by a packed morning of Super G and Super Combined with the Slalom element of that competition taking part on the Méribel Stade that afternoon.  At the end of the week we run the Floodlit Parallel Slalom on Thursday (with the exciting Sponsors’ Team Slalom that evening) and on the Friday the final event is the Giant Slalom (followed by the ultra-competitive Sponsors’ Giant Slalom) completing a packed week of Championship races. Early heavy snow in the Alps and a well-tuned programme suggest we will be well set for another fantastic competition.