Stoke shows what is possible

They came from the South, the North, Wales and across England to get the buzz from racing again. The hard work put in by all the staff at Stoke Ski Centre resulted in huge smiles by the racers and their parents. "It feels great to be back racing," explained one racer before adding with a huge smile "even if I am skiing badly!" It meant a huge amount to those racing just to be back in a competitive environment.

For some a two and a half hour journey for around two hours in the competitive arena may sound like a lot of travelling for little reward but this was the first race of the summer and it meant a lot to those racing.

Yes there were things happening that not all agreed with and yes, the programme could be adapted but this was the first race and showed that summer racing can happen in these trying times. The programme saw a minimum amount of people on site and each group of approximately 16 athletes rolling through the venue from arrival, to warm up, to inspection, to three runs and then packing up and going.

The joy of families racing in the same event was fantastic to witness. One racer posted on Facebook: Being able to share the slope with my son and wife is always awesome, but to share it in the first race back since lockdown was even more special."

A huge amount of discussion had gone on. between Snowsport England and Stoke to make the race happen. Not all agreed with the requirement by Snowsport England for the gates to be cleaned between each group but it was better to have this happen, than no racing at all.

Commenting on a picture on the Racer Ready Ski magazine Facebook page, one parent wrote "At least someone has professionally organised something, within the rules, it might not be perfect but in the circumstances it's very close."

The racing saw a cut off of 80 points for racers and this allowed many middle ranking and improving racers to be the focus of the on slope action. With groups of about 16 taking to the slope, Charlie Deem used his early start to set the marker for the day but had to withstand a late charge from Chris Royle from the last group before his win was confirmed. Alex Penneck took third place overall.

In the girl's race, Anna Sarkar posted two good times on her first two runs before a third run charge by Ffion Lewis saw her just hold on for the race win. Sadie Merritt took third place overall.

In order to keep people informed as to how they were doing after their run, updated results were emailed out after each group. Despite some mutterings of GDPR regulations, this was a popular concept and maybe in post Covid days, this could be a continued practice and thus helping the environment as less paper is needed.

While the time between each run had some racers muttering, slightly larger groups or gaps between each run might be an idea.

With support from Ski Bartlett, Ski Racing Supplies and Lange Dynastar Shred, ski racing was the big winner of the day. Racing is possible in these trying times and while there could be some tweaking on the programme, this was a start. Ski racing is back.

Whether the restrictions put in place were right or wrong, whether you agree or disagree with them, Stoke and David Hanlon did their hardest to get the event going and racing happening again. We move on as a sport from here.

The age group winners were:

Women: Helena Rishton (U10), Alice Bond (U12), Anna Sarkar (U14 and race winner), Scarlett Winter (U16), Sadie Merritt (U18), Harriet Staden (U21) and Louise Graham (Masters)

Men: Henry Wilding (U8), Harrison Harwood (U10), Izaac Ellison (U12), George Brown (U14), Charlie Deem (16 and race winner), Andrew Webb (U18) and Chris Royle (Masters)

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