TALK to most would-be Olympians and they will tell you how the bug hit them the first time they tried their sport and never let go.
Not Nicole Ritchie: “I absolutely hated it,” the Scottish skiing champion admits as she plots a summer of brutal fitness work and skills training on the glaciers of the French Alps.
“I was three-and-a-half and on a family holiday in Colorado,” she remembers.
“I screamed the whole first ten minutes of the lesson and eventually my parents were called back and had to pick me up because I would not shut up.
“My parents persisted, though, and the next day I went back, made new friends and that changed everything — I did not really know what was going on.
“It was not love at first try, but now it is definitely something I would like to do for the rest of my life. I went on to take lessons at Glasgow Ski Centre at Bellahouston Park, and by then I absolutely loved it. I was in the race team by seven and have been racing ever since.”
Racing, it must be said, to such good effect that asking her to rattle off the long list of titles she has won is a bit of an epic, including winning the Scottish indoor title yesterday and holding the title for the last three years, the outdoor title for four consecutive years, top rankings in the British Under-21 championships and winning the Scottish Alpine championships for the last two years.
All this and she has not even reached her 20th birthday yet.
Given that skiers don’t usually hit their peak until their late 20s, means there is a lot more to come from this talented young lady from Newton Mearns in Glasgow.
Hence the summer of intense training in France to try to break into the ranks competing on the world stage.
The problem, as always with British Alpine skiing, is money. While the Austrians, Norwegians and all the other countries – where children ski before they walk – are pouring cash into the sport to maintain their grip on the leading titles, somebody like Nicole Ritchie has to look at how she funds it to maintain and improve on the world stage.
“Up until last season it was all my parents, but last year I was lucky enough to secure a sponsorship deal from QTS, a railway engineering company based in Scotland, who gave me an offer of sponsorship for three years, that helps massively.
“I don’t think I would be skiing competitively without their help, it is greatly appreciated and I’d like to thank QTS for their continued support,” she says.
“British Ski and Snowboard [the UK governing body] took only one female skier to the Olympics last year, and support just one male and two female skiers financially, so it is hard to get into the top ranks.
“Olympics and the World Cup are the ultimate goal — representing Britain on the international stage.
“QTS as a company aim to support up and coming sportsmen and women to give them the opportunity to excel in their field.”
For all the barriers in her way, Nicole has a determined personality and perhaps there is an argument that if you have to overcome all these obstacles, then it will mean so much more if you do eventually get there.
“It is very hard at times, but I love the sport and do it for the love of the sport. I’m an ambassador for Rossignol who provide me with equipment up to a perfect level and I then represent them at specific youth camps around the country, and that helps too.
“In my sport you don’t reach your peak until you are about 27 so I am quite a bit off that.
“I’d love to continue for the next eight years though it will be hard. Right now, Olympics is a dream but I hope that in the next couple of years it can be a reality.”
Sunday 14th June Scottish Indoor Championships.
First place Nicole Ritchie Glasgow Ski Racing
200 athletes from throughout the UK
For further information
Contact GRM 07973 101534.
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Contact: Gordon Ritchie