We’re back in Bormio – where the brilliant sun blazed down from glassy blue sky and a bevy of young stars strutted their stuff on opening day at the English Alpine Championships. Over 440 athletes, not to mention their coaches, families and friends, have descended on the resort for six days of competition to savour. And after Saturday night’s magical opening parade set the scene, the key actors had their say with three races on Stelvio and Stella Alpina.
Ambition Racing’s Abi Bruce underlined her Dolomites pedigree with silver in the FIS Giant Slalom, an outstanding result in a competitive and experienced field. The former English giant slalom and alpine combined U18 champion, ninth racer out, conquered rough conditions on first run with a searing 50.57s, leading at the flip. “I’ve built up confidence this season and that definitely showed in the first run, it was my best performance of the season,” said the 18-year-old. “I’ve always performed in Bormio. It’s always nice to lead a run, it would have been nice to win but I’m just really happy with how I’ve performed. “My mum is with me and my sister has been constantly messaging me today! It’s always nice to come to British races, to know everyone and experience the atmosphere.”
Fellow Ambition racer Sarah Woodward, FIS overall fourth last year, clocked 57.70s on second run to reach the rostrum with bronze. Fresh from the Winter Youth Olympics, Scot Owen Vinter began Bormio in assured fashion as the top Brit in the men’s GS, seventh overall.
Speed was the watchword and youth was given its head on the beast that is Stelvio with a Super-G double header capturing the imagination of the Under-14s. Luca Carrick-Smith, 12, grabbed the title of top English racer and gold in both Super-G races with 49.35s in the first and 49.29 in the championship second. “It was fun. The sun hadn’t come out on the first run, but it rutted up more for the second and softened up so it was easier,” said the British Ski Academy racer. “I felt I skied really well. This week, my main goal is to stay in! I sometimes ski out trying to win everything.”
In the first race Alex Ogden, recently enrolled at Aiglon, pushed him close 1.10s up in the silver medal position with George Black bagging bronze. Black scooped a double with silver at the second time of asking, Sandown Park’s Ben Aldridge-Bate impressing for bronze. The key for the youngsters was to find the right line on a tricky top phase of the course, with the closing stages sympathetic aside from a challenging final roll.
Ambition’s Honor Bartlett roared back from a first-race DNF to claim championship gold, a 51.15s run sending her clear of the field. “It was a rollercoaster of a day,” said Bartlett. “In the first run I just skied straight over a roll and missed the next gate. “My coaches had warned me so I knew what I had done wrong, it was great to go out and put it right.”
British Ski Academy swept the board in the first run, with Madison Spence, Molly Butler and Anna Kamaly-Asl dominating the podium. Kamaly-Asl, a firm contender for the overall title, was behind Bartlett with silver in the second run where Evolution Racing’s Charlotte Holmes secured bronze.
Sunday’s action whet the appetite for the week ahead, starting on Monday with NJR GS on Stella Alpina, two Super-G races on Stelvio for the Under-16s and an U14/16 night parallel.