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The Welsh Alpine Ski Championships 2016

January 29, 2016

This annual race event, organised by Snowsport Wales took place from 19th-22nd of January in the beautiful and traditional resort of Champery, Switzerland where it has been held for the past 10 years. This meant that alongside the races were 10 year anniversary celebrations including a live outdoor concert, a huge Welsh flag cake and a good old Welsh sing-a-long with locals, racers and organisers.

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The first two days were international FIS races with international entries from Wales and the UK as well as 19 other nations from as far afield as USA and India. Top British female in both the GS and Slalom races was Welsh Team member 21 year old Nia Jenkins followed closely by promising 17 year-old British racer Katya Bingle-Williams. Best of the British boys was 21 year old Paul Henderson who not only came top out of the British in the slalom but third overall, beating some incredibly stiff international competition. In the international GS it was 19 year old Robert Poth who was not only the best Brit of the race but 2nd overall, sandwiched between two Swiss racers who have the advantage of training on the real thing far more than our British competitors. 

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Once the FIS races were over, the older racers gave way to the younger contingency who competed over two amazingly sunny days, first in a Slalom and then in the GS.

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In the minis category (under 10/12 years) Welsh racers who came out on top in both the GS and Slalom were Leane Francis and Marnie Probert in the girls, and Edward Evans and Steffan Hodson in the boys. Many of the minis were using the Welsh Alpine Champs as an opportunity to race on snow for the very first time and if the smiles at the finish line were anything to go by, it definitely won’t be last time we see them compete! For the U14s and U16s, the Welsh Champs provides an annual opportunity for them to compete against their piers and improve upon their previous winter results on the fantastic race piste in Champery. In the U14s the Welsh female racer that came out on top of both the international and Welsh competitors was Giselle Gorringe, getting an impressive winning time of 49.36 seconds in the Slalom and 63.42 secs in the GS. In the boys race racer Thomas Butterworth came out as the top Welsh racer in both disciplines.

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For many young competitors, the Champs is an opportunity to gain important experience and check out their current and future competition, especially as these races were also attended by a regional squad of U16 skiers from Western USA. Welsh racers took many of the winning spots with Olivia Ward coming 1st overall, Giselle’s talented older sister Cerys Gorringe coming second overall and Georgia Hyett coming in at 4th, despite that fact that the Champs were only the second snow races she’s ever attended! She also came 5th in the slalom, proving that she’s a racer to watch! In the U16 boys William Munday was the Welsh winner in the Slalom and Osamu Okuma was the U16s mens GS Welsh winner as well as the 2nd fastest racer overall.

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The team of American racers, who’d come over from the States specifically for the event, provided the races with a special brand of enthusiasm which everyone loved and some great competition for the British racers, claiming spots on the podium on more than one occasion. They left the races with lots of new British friends and the promise to return next year.

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After the races had been completed on the Friday afternoon a particularly special prize giving was held in the town square to celebrate not only the racers achievements but the 10 year anniversary of the Welsh Champs being held in Champery. A live band, suitably from North Wales pitched up to play an excellent set after all the prizes had been handed out. Prizes that were provided by Ski Club of Great Britain and the Winter Sports Association who provided £150 to each winning racer, to put towards their continued training and development. This is the beginning of an ongoing partnership between Snowsport Wales and the Winter Sports Foundation team from the Winter Sports foundation attended the event and offered words of praise an encouragement at the prize giving just before singer Georgina Kellen took to the stage to sing Calon Lan and of course the Welsh national anthem, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau. And that, in true Welsh style, is how we brought an end to the Welsh Alpine Championships 2016! 

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Judging by the success of this one 2017 is set to be a championships to look forward to - see you there!

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