2023 Inter Services Championships
As a consequence of Meribel hosting this year’s “Championnats Du Monde FIS Ski Alpin”, 2023 proved to be another ‘non-standard’ year for the ISSSC; however, the adapted pre-event training schedules for all 3 Services, during the week prior to the Championships, and the recommencement of our teams’ ‘traditional’ selection training and racing ensured the event could be run safely and, as it turned out, highly successfully, thanks in no small part to the dedication and professionalism of our Meribel hosts and the superb hill team.
Single Service selection was centred around the RAF Championships in Saalbach Hinterglemm, Austria for the RAF, and Ex TELEMARK TITAN in Pralognan la Vanoise (PLV), France. For the RAF, poor snow conditions forced racing higher up than usual to new pistes and some excellent venues for race development. For the RN and Army Ex TELEMARK TITAN continues to provide an excellent venue for identifying and building new talent. For all 3 Services a key line of effort for 2023 was the promotion of women’s Telemarking at their respective Championships, which would enable, for the first time, a true tri-service competition at the ISSSC.
Army Team Captain Lt Col Daz Howells on the Balfour Beatty Giant Slalom Jump
Following a highly successful training week, in which particular focus was placed upon the development of our female athletes, racing started on the Sunday, a day earlier than the traditional programme, with the Balfour Beatty Giant Slalom. Surprisingly firm conditions for the time of year and clear skies, couple with a gigantic stadium – a legacy of the World Championships – created a fantastic setting for the first race of the championships. With favourite Lt James French RN a ‘Did Not Start’ due to a timing clash with his Alpine race, the scene was set for the Army to take an early lead in the Championship, and they duly capitalised, taking the top 4 slots with Capt Stefan Hurst 1st and Team Captain, veteran, Lt Col Daz Howells taking the final counting place in 4th for an Army clean sweep. Despite this, the RN were looking strong, with newcomer Capt Will Minsall showing significant promise taking 5th place and it was only Flt Lt Rich Pike, RAF who could get amongst the top RN racers with a very respectable 7th place. The women’s race saw a win for Officer Cadet Iona Kelly, one of 2 racers from Exeter UOTC, who although able to represent the Army, could not qualify for medallic recognition. So, it was a win for the RAF with Squadron Leader Clare Thomas in 1st and Flight Lieutenant Sarah Shave taking Silver.
Cpl Steve Fryer takes a tumble in the Advalus Telemark Sprint
Next up was the Advalus Telemark Sprint, with the weather slightly overcast and minor concerns about the firmness of the snow, conditions were not optimal but well within scope for another great race. Following his disastrous first day, Lt James French RN was back in business running 7 seconds clear of 2nd placed Capt Stefan Hurst (Army) over the 2-run course comprising 16 GS gates, a 15m jump, a 360 wrap and a 150m skate. With AET Matt Deane RN also finding form to take 3rd it was an overall win for the RN this time, following some uncharacteristic mistakes for some of the Army big hitters. For the RAF it was again Flt Lt Rich Pike who took the highest placing with 11th; however, the stage was now set for a close fight between the RN and Army for the Men’s Championship. In the women’s race, Medical Assistant (MA) Tezney Murphy’s RN debut meant, that for the first time, Telemark had succeeded in tri-service representation in a Championship race and a full podium. Again, OCdts Iona Kelly and Phoebe Garrett from Exeter UOTC both skied superbly; however, it was Sqn Ldr Clare Thomas who took the podium, with Sarah Shave second and Tezney in 3rd.
Women’s Podium in the Advalus Telemark Sprint: 1st – Sqn Ldr Clare Thomas (RAF) , 2nd Flt Lt Sarah Shave, 3rd – MA Tezney Murphy.
Newcomer AET Matthew Deane RN in the Gates on the BMT Telemark Classic
After a well-earned day’s break from racing our competitors assembled for what was to be, in the Men’s event, the closest run BMT Telemark Classic in memory, with only 3 points separating the top 4 racers from the Army and RN. With the top 2 places going ‘to script’: Lt James French (RN) followed by Captain Stefan Hurst (Army), 3rd went to Capt Ben Atkinson (Army) who re-found his form after a disappointing Sprint race. However, it was newcomers AET Matt Deane and Capt Will Minshall taking 4th and 5th respectively who enabled some depth to the RN individual win from French, that afforded and overall win for the RN and prompted the observation that “men’s Telemark was no longer about the ‘old boys’ – the future is here!” There were some brave performances, and 2 top ten placings from the RAF; notably Team Captain, Wing Commander Jonno Young showing he ‘still has it’ to take an impressive 9th.
The women’s race saw our largest field yet with 6 racers from all 3 Services competing it what is arguably the toughest race of the ISSSC. With 32 GS gates, a formidable 15m jump, a 360 degree wrap and a 250m skate all designed to test aerobic and anaerobic capacity to destruction, just turning up at the start should warrant significant respect! In all cases the women proved equal to the task with highly credible performances and another first-time racer Flt Lt Emma Tadman debuting. Results followed those of the previous two races with individual and team wins for Sqn Ldr Clare Thomas and the RAF respectively.
Sqn Ldr Clare Thomas and MA Tenzey Murphy in the Final of the GardaWorld Telemark Sprint
As always, the Telemark Championship finished with the GardaWorld Parallel Sprint, a huge crowd pleaser and this year’s had all the thrills and spills we’ve come to expect from sending 2 racers down a tight GS and into a head to head wrap and skate. First up was the women’s event. With the Army’s women unable to medal, due to their reserve status in UOTC, it was down to them to forerun and both Iona and Phoebe hit the course with all the enthusiasm and energy they had consistently shown throughout the whole Championship to great accolade. The main women’s race was a tight 4-way ski off, with Sqn Ldr Clare Thomas RAF and MA Tezney Murphy RN narrowly qualifying for the final, and despite a superb debut Championship for the RN’s Tezney Murphy, it was the veteran Sqn Ldr Clare Thomas who took the win to make it a clean sweep.
With 2 team wins for the RN and only one for the Army there was everything to play for in the men’s final race and as promised it was a spectacle. With all 3 Services represented in the quarter final it was the Army’s experienced racers that broke through to dominate after fantastic performances from Team Captain, Lt Col Daz Howells and SSgt Danny Johnson who made it an all Army ‘small final’; however, as predicted it was a French/Hurst ski off for 1st place and despite giving it everything he had Hurst again fell to James French who took the win.
Telemark Camaraderie in the gruelling BMT Telemark Classic final sprint
So with 2 wins to both the RN and Army it came down to the points and in the end it was the Army’s experience and consistency that won out. But standby! Thanks to emerging talent, including ‘Best Newcomer’ Capt Will Minshall next year’s racing promises to be tighter than ever.
However, the biggest win of the Telemark Championships must go to all of our women athletes who are blazing the trail in this sport. With the RAF making history as the 1st women’s (and RAF!) Telemark team to win at the ISSSC all eyes will be on the other 2 Services to see if the gap can be narrowed next year. Finally, on behalf of the whole Telemark community, a huge thank you to our sponsors, to Meribel, the Armed Forces race committee and to our fellow teams in the Snowboard and Alpine disciplines for another fantastic year.
Report written by Jol Goodwin.
2022 Inter Services Championships
With the latest COVID variant continuing to throw curve balls and an upcoming world crisis to contend with, agility and adaptably were the order of the day in enabling a highly successful Inter-Services Telemark Championships, and it would be remiss not to highlight the remarkable efforts of the Organising Committee, our Meribel partners and, of course, our Sponsors all of whom ‘held their nerve’ to deliver a fantastic event.
With the cancellation of Ex Telemark Titan, in Pralognan la Vanoise (PLV) France, which normally comprises the British Championships, as well as the Army and RN single Service Championships, and the RAF Alpine Championships succumbing to the impact of COVID, all 3 Services had to adapt their pre-event training regimes. Building on lessons learned in 2019/20, the Army conducted a shortened camp in PLV, focussing development areas on jump practice, start-gate drills and skate training. The RN Telemark Team joined fellow RN Alpine Ski and Snowboard Teams to conduct a 2-week training camp at Tignes. This afforded a great chance to train with other snow sport discipline team members and provided an opportunity to ‘convert’ one of their Alpine racers to Telemark. For the RAF, the impact was more profound: whilst they conducted a successful Development Camp in Tignes in December, they only achieved limited race training at UK indoor slopes so faced a daunting week in Meribel.
With notable absences of some of the younger ‘big hitters’ from both the RN and Army teams and sub-optimal preparation for everyone, delivering a safe Championship was, more than ever, at the forefront of the organising committee’s thoughts. Despite best efforts, a combination of factors led to only the Army Team managing to field a full Squad. This led to a request to reduce the Team Championship from 6 with 4 counting racers to 5 with 3 counting. Testament must go to the Army’s sporting ethos (as clearly this was not to their benefit!) that this decision was universally supported.
As always, the Championships commenced with the Balfour Beatty Giant Slalom, albeit a day later than normally programmed to enable additional, much needed training. This year we were honoured to have HRH The Countess of Wessex present the medals and with Captain Stefan Hurst (RLC), taking a convincing win following a 6-year absence from the Army Team, Colour Sergeant Steve Farrant (RM) taking 2nd place, with his first podium finish in 6 years on the RN team, and Staff Sergeant Danny Johnson (RE) in Bronze we saw a flavour of how the Championships would unfold; all 3 podiumed in both subsequent races. After a phenomenally brave performance from the RAF team, who finished with a combined time only 7 and 4 seconds behind the RN and Army respectively, it was the team event which looked most likely to be hardest fought and at this stage it looked as though the Army’s sportsmanship might cost them the championship!
With one race in the bag, disaster struck. After one of the race committee testing positive for COVID, the whole team were required to isolate for 24hrs whilst awaiting PCR results. Miraculously, no further cases where identified, and demonstrating the agility and adaptability previously mentioned, the race programme was adjusted to allow 2 races – the Classic and Sprint Classic to be conducted on Thursday. This meant that despite the devastating loss of the BMT Parallel Sprint, and huge apologises to BMT for that, we still had a viable Championship.
The BT Telemark Classic followed on another glorious day, and despite the cancellation of the ISSSC Barbeque, and accompanying sickening smell of burgers as the athletes cross the finishing line in this brutal race, it was another superb event. The Podium participants remained the same, but this time Staff Sergeant Danny Johnson beat Steve Farrant to the Silver medal position. A strong performance from the RAF’s Squadron Leader Pat Mitchell, who took 4th place, saw the RAF team again demonstrably closing in on the other 2 Services teams, but it was the Army who took victory in the team race, with the RN in a close Second place.
After a very tough Classic race, the Teams’ resilience really came to the fore in the newly re-scheduled Advalus ‘Night’ Sprint Classic. Not only another tough race, but a power cut to the lift and floodlights caused further delay and put overall Championship success into jeopardy. However, as always, the relentless professionalism of the Meribel Hill Team, led by the unflappable Yannick Favieres saved the day. With only minutes until cancellation, they had the power back on, and we were away. Podium results mirrored the Classic with the Army taking 1st and 2nd and despite an incredibly valiant effort from RN Team Captain Gordon MCrae (RM) and Lt Cdr Ramsay Shaw (RN) who followed up Colour Sergeant Steve Farrant to take 3rd, 4th and 5th places they weren’t quite quick enough beat the Army. This meant the overall Championship went to the British Army for the first time in 6 years. Overall individual results: 1st Captain Stephan Hurst (Army), 2nd Staff Sergeant Danny Johnson (Army) and 3rd Colour Sergeant Steve Farrant (RM/RN).
The ISSSC Telemark community is defined by the comradeship and respect between our teams which this uniquely physically and mentally relentless sport engenders, and it was again great to see new faces competing. Of note, congratulations to two new Army development skiers Capt Alex Leslie (RE) and 2Lt Nigel Foskett (PWRR). Both performed extremely well with Capt Leslie achieving the Best Newcomer award. Skiing for the RN, Sgt Andrew Spain, the ‘Alpine convert’ competed in the GS, but sadly picked up an injury during an Alpine race that took him out for the rest of the Championship. And finally, congratulations to female competitors, Wing Commander Alex Smyth, Flight Lieutenant Sarah Shave as well as Flight Lieutenant Ben Tawny who all debuted for the RAF in the ISSSC Telemark Sprint and who show great promise for the future.
|Individual GS Winner||Capt Stefan HURST|
|Individual Sprint Winner||Capt Stefan HURST|
|Individual Classic Winner||Capt Stefan HURST|
|Individual Sprint Parallel Winner||Not Contested|
|Team GS Winners||Navy|
|Team Sprint Winners||Army|
|Team Classic Winners||Army|
|Team Parallel Sprint Winner||Not Contested|
|Best Newcomer||Capt Alexander LESLEY|
|Individual Combined 3rd Place||CSgt Steven FARRANT|
|Individual Combined 2nd Place||SSgt Danny JOHNSON|
|Individual Combined Champion||Capt Stefan HURST|
|Team Combined Champions||Army|