Need For Speed
With the support of his parents and local businesses, Robert Holmes is making the journey from Youth Olympian to World Cup skier. Photography: Sam Mellish Photography & OIS Photography
Pendle Ski racer Robert Holmes, from Higherford, has just returned home from the Winter Youth Olympic Games 2020 in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Robert, 17, was part of the Team GB squad selected as part of a four-strong team of alpine skiers, to represent Great Britain. The event took place in the mountain range Vaud Alps, rising up from Lake Geneva, and overlooking the host city of Lausanne. Athletes from around the world stayed at the Youth Olympic Village, located in the heart of the city’s 35,000 student university campus. Around 1,880 athletes, aged 15 to 18 years, from 70 nations participated in eight different winter sports.
Over seven days, Robert competed in four events, Slalom, Giant Slalom, Super G and Team, on the pistes of Les Diablerets, the location for all alpine events. Super G, the fastest of the disciplines, was the first event and with over 80 male competitors on the start list, Robert was keen to impress as he explains: “Starting with a bib number of 23, I was looking to attack the challenging slope and difficult course, and felt confident that I had some good skiing in me. Unfortunately, I pushed a little too hard and was a little too eager to take risks and ended up crashing in the early stages of the race, along with several other of the top seeded racers. However, I was well in touch for a good result, and this gave me confidence.”
On the second day of competition was the Giant Slalom event and Robert started with a slightly higher ranking number of 37. He skied aggressively and confidently, and after the first run moved up the rankings to 25th position from 75 competitors. More impressively, in the top section of the course he set the record for the fastest intermediate time, leading the top ranked athletes. Consolidating his position with a strong second run, he went on to finish in 20th position overall, in a field of the world’s best up and coming junior alpine skiers and achieved Team GB’s best result of the day.
The penultimate race of the Youth Olympic Games was the Slalom, and as Robert’s strongest discipline he really wanted to better his result from the previous day. Starting with a bib number of 32, Robert attacked the course and skied brilliantly, ending up in 19th position after the first run and within touching distance of the podium positions.
“My target before the race was to finish as one of the top 15 skiers in the competition and I realised this was well within my grasp on the second run. On the second run I took more risks to try to take a top 10 position or better but made a massive mistake and ended up disqualified for missing a gate, throwing away my chances. But I was happy that I skied as aggressively as I could and left every bit of energy on the hill. I knew I had to push as hard as possible and feel that I did that.”
After all the individual competitions had been concluded, the final day of competitions saw the Team Event take place, a head to head knock out dual slalom, in which Robert was selected to represent Team GB. In the first-round Great Britain were drawn against the power-house nation of alpine skiing, Austria, who were already well underway towards climbing the medals table, with one of the fastest male and female skiers in the event. Robert says: “Knowing we had to ski our hearts out to beat this level of opposition, we gave it our best shot. I pushed as hard as I could in the second race against Philip Hoffman, the winner of the men’s GS earlier in the week, knowing that the British beating Austria would be a massive upset. I came so close, finishing just 0.02secs – two hundredths of a second is less than a blink – behind him! We may have been knocked out of the competition, but this was superb against one the best junior skiers in the world who had podium in the earlier events, and I was really happy with my performance.
“The whole Youth Olympic experience was amazing and has given me a clearer vision on what I need to do to match my competitors from the strongest alpine nations and compete at the highest level, on the World Cup Tour.”
Robert takes inspiration from Lancashire’s Dave Ryding, current World Cup Slalom skier, multiple British Champion and three times Winter Olympian.
As well as wishing to pursue a career as a ski racer, Robert is studying for his A Levels, completing his studies remotely with Loughborough Sports College and locally at Nelson & Colne College.
Robert started skiing aged four, at Pendle Ski Club at Sabden and still competes for the club at dry slope races across the UK. Last summer, Robert won the British Artificial Slope Championship at Stoke and then followed this by retaining his All England Artificial Slope Championship title at Norwich. When Robert is at home he enjoys coaching young and aspiring ski racers at Pendle Ski race squad and has often spoken about the influence Dave Ryding has had on his career and how he wishes to provide the following example for the next generation.
The costs of elite ski racing are high, and there is very little funding available, so Robert would like to thank everyone who has made his participation in the Winter Youth Olympic Games possible. Before the games Robert’s parents, John and Andrea, organised a fun ski race at Pendle to raise additional funds, and there are numerous sponsors and supporters who have helped Robert to reach the games and represent Team GB.
Prestige car specialists Hippo Motor Group, run by local businessman Tom Preston, have recognised Robert’s skiing talent and work ethic and come on board as his helmet sponsor for this season, helping support him to reach the Winter Youth Olympics, and Robert is especially grateful for the support from Tom and all the team at Hippo.
If any other local businesses would be interested in working with Robert on his journey from Youth Olympian to World Cup skier, please feel free to contact him by email: firstname.lastname@example.org