|A six-person team from RAF Akrotiri have returned to British Forces Cyprus this week in celebratory mood after finishing second in the prestigious Alpine Ski Championships in Austria.
The RAF event, which took place in Saalbach-Hinterglemm between January 12-26, saw a total of 21 teams fighting for the top prize and more than 800 competitors battling for individual honours in a range of categories.
The overall award was calculated after the RAF Akrotiri skiers completed the slalom and giant slalom team races and the fastest three times from each team in both downhill events were aggregated and counted towards the result. The team, which consisted of Kelly Wild, Squadron Leader Spencer Wild, Station Commander, Group Captain Chris Snaith, Ailsa Snaith, Wing Commander James Gelnar and SAC Andy Wilkinson, narrowly missed out on the top prize but up against some highly experienced skiers, second place was a huge achievement according to Sqn Ldr Wild.
Speaking after returning to Cyprus, he said: “The RAF Alpine Championship attract all levels of competitors - from complete novices to accomplished racers - who have competed at Inter-Service and Combined-Service level.”
|One of the shining lights within the RAF Akrotiri team was Kelly Wild, a highly-experienced competitor who was a member of the British National Ski Team between 1993 and 1997.
The RAF Akrotiri Physiotherapist was also ranked Britain’s number one female in downhill for four years and her ability took her to the World Junior Championships, the Youth Olympic Games and the Europa Cup International races.
Her results at the championships saw her take first female in the Individual Slalom, Giant Slalom and Super-G and a further Individual Super-G that was run in place of the Downhill event.
She also won the overall female title and after the results were calculated, her times would have also seen her finish third overall when pitted against the men.
Having returned to her day job covered in gold, Kelly, who as her name would suggest, is married to her teammate, Sqn Ldr Wild, paid tribute to her team: “Spence did incredibly well and it was amazing that aged 49 and having been out of racing for 17 years he was still competing so closely with the RAF and RAF development team members.
“Andy Wilkinson raced once at the RAF Championships last year but it was the first race for our other three team members and they overcame having no knowledge of ski race courses and the fact it was held on a really challenging hill to lay down some very good, solid results.
“James Gelnar skied incredibly well in both races and was justifiably proud of his results and he gave us our required third fastest team member times in both races.
“Ailsa Snaith also had two really good results in both races, finishing just behind James in both. She has a really smooth, graceful and technically beautiful skiing technique.
“Chris Snaith was the least experienced in the team and in the lessons prior to the races he was showing massive technical improvements daily with great race technique. He is naturally hugely competitive with absolutely no fear and so attacked his first ever race very aggressively.
“Andy Wilkinson is a great skier and showed his aggressive style in the Giant Slalom, finishing again just behind James.”
Sqn Ldr Wild, who finished 10th overall in the men’s Individual Giant Slalom and 11th and 9th in the Slalom and Giant Slalom team events, revealed both he and Kelly have tried to make the most of the snow in Troodos whilst on island, albeit with a very different focus.
He continued: “My last competitive race was 17 years ago and Kelly’s was 21 years ago. We have had the odd skiing holiday or trip up to Troodos and the season before last we were there most weekends between December and March but mostly skiing with our then two-year-old daughter, so training was not a high-priority.”
It’s safe to say, if training does become the priority for the highly-accomplished team, RAF Akrotiri could well be returning with even more gold next time.