A plethora of athletes graced the Pyeongchang opening ceremony representing Team GB at this year’s Winter Olympics, but only a handful can give the North West glory in South Korea. Two of which, Dave Ryding and Lamin Deen, have risen to the biggest stage of their respective sports from very humble backgrounds. Now, they are at the forefront of Britain’s potential medal haul. Here’s all you need to know about them:
Born and raised in Chorley, the future Olympian began skiing at the age of 12. While his slalom rivals were growing up in the mountains of Scandinavia and North America, Ryding took to the plastic slopes at Pendle Ski Club in Lancashire. Despite the limitations of growing up in a relatively resourceless country for his sport, the 31-year-old eventually climbed the ladder and took centre-stage at the 2017 Kitzbuhel slalom in Austria in January 2017 where he finished runner-up
This is where he made his name as one of Britain’s biggest Winter Olympic dark horses, challenging the notion that his nation can’t compete alongside the more traditional Alpine countries of the world. Although, by his own admission, transitioning to snow was a difficult task.
“It’s slightly different. You can transfer it to snow and, OK, you have to learn the rolls, the steeps, the ice, the slush – the variables that come with snow,” Ryding told CNN.
But now, he’s adept as any of his arrivals at dominating the mountains he used to barely know. The Europa Cup winner competed in two Olympics and four World Championships before hitting his prime and now hopes to add to his Kitzbuhel podium in Pyeongchang.
At 37 years of age, Deen can be seen as somewhat of a veteran on the Olympic stage, in both senses of the word. Having served in the army as a Grenadier Guardsman before achieving sporting glory, he has since said that a life in the armed forces is child’s play compared to piloting Team GB’s Bobsleigh aspirations. However, serving in the forces did give him the discipline to compete on the world stage and helped him get out of trouble as a teenager.
“When I was a youngster, I was always getting in and out of trouble. I wasn’t the most disciplined young kid,” Deen told the Manchester Evening News.
“But the Army gave me skills and discipline. There are many similarities between the discipline required in the Army and that required on the bob-sleighing track. I owe a lot to the Army and the skills it taught me.”
The Manchester-raised athlete has soared to stardom since his time in the Army, winning his first podium finish in the 2017 Bobsleigh World Cup in Canada and setting a new record for speed in the sport, clocked at 92 mph.
An accomplished sprinter before trying his hand at Bobsleigh, Deen is backed to land a Winter Olympics medal alongside his Team GB compatriots, with his family and friends praising the phenomenal rise.
“He’s in everyone’s hearts and minds here,” said childhood friend Leonardo on Facebook.
“He’s achieved so much and words can’t express really how highly I respect him and proud I am to know the guy, he’s a great role model.”
You can watch Ryding’s event from (today) February 12 and Deen’s from February 21.