KITZBÜHEL, Austria (AP) — Dave Ryding kneeled in the finish area and kissed the snow. A few meters away, his coach and ski technician cried in happiness.
British ski racing had been waiting for this moment for over five decades.
Ryding had just become the first British winner in the 55-year history of the Alpine skiing World Cup on Saturday, triumphing in one of the classic slaloms of the men’s circuit.
“I guess my name will be in history now,” Ryding said.
Sixth after the opening run, Ryding pumped his fist a few times when he took the lead after his strong final run in dense snowfall on one of the circuit's most challenging slalom courses.
He then witnessed how the last five racers all made big mistakes and finished well behind — or not at all.
“I had so much emotion when I finished, now I just don’t know what to say. I’m normally not lost for words but now I am,” Ryding said right after the race.
His coach, Tristan Glasse-Davies, and his ski technician, Jai Geyer, loudly cheered from the coaches' area.
“It means everything, it’s incredible. No one deserves it more than Dave," said Geyer, a former ski racer who retired in 2016 and competed on the second-tier European Cup.
“He is a solid, intelligent skier," Geyer added. "He wasn't actually feeling very well today, he had a bit of a cold. It means so much to British skiing. Dave, winning against the odds, it's incredible.”
Lucas Braathen, who spectacularly won the slalom in Wengen last week coming from 29th position after the first run, finished 0.38 seconds behind in second, followed by Norwegian teammate Henrik Kristoffersen, who improved from 24th after the opening run.
Ryding’s triumph came five years after the Briton earned his first career World Cup podium at the same iconic venue in the Austrian Alps, finishing runner-up to Austrian great Marcel Hirscher.
Ryding had two more podium results, most recently in Adelboden a year ago, before finally clinching his maiden win.
“I’m 35 now but I never stopped believing. I never stopped trying,” Ryding said. “And to bring the first victory for Great Britain in a World Cup in Kitzbühel, I don’t know if dreams are made better, it’s some place.”
The win crowns a remarkable career for Ryding, who learned to ski on dry slopes and only skied on snow for the first time at the age of 12.
“I didn’t grow up on snow, I grew up on plastic ski slopes, which were 11 seconds long,” he recalled.
Ryding made his World Cup debut in Alta Badia in 2009 and was competing in his 97th race Saturday.
“I think I'm everyone's second-favorite skier. Everyone knows my story, it’s totally different,” he said.
Ryding became the fifth different winner in the fifth men’s slalom of the season as the top-ranked racers after the first run all struggled in dense snowfall on the demanding course.
First-run leader Alex Vinatzer of Italy dropped to 18th, and French pre-race favorite Clément Noël went from second to 15th.
Norway’s Sebastian Foss-Solevåg and Italy’s Giuliano Razzoli, who were third and fourth, respectively, both straddled a gate and failed to finish.
Defending overall champion Alexis Pinturault also straddled a gate early in his second run as the Frenchman became one of 11 racers who skied out in the final leg.
Luke Winters, wearing bib No. 38, was the top American finisher in 11th. Teammate Benjamin Ritchie also qualified for the second run but skied out halfway down the course.
Manuel Feller, the top-ranked Austrian in slalom, sat out the race after testing positive for COVID-19.
The slalom was initially scheduled for Sunday but organizers swapped it with a downhill, which could not have been staged Saturday because of the snowfall.
There is one more slalom before the Beijing Olympics: a night race in Schladming on Tuesday.
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