Frustration for ski ace

Britain's top junior ski racer TJ Baldwin has returned home to Tharston from the World Junior Championships, disappointed despite some excellent skiing.

Britain's top junior ski racer TJ Baldwin has returned home to Tharston from the World Junior Championships, disappointed despite some excellent skiing.

He finished 18th in the Downhill race - the best for over 30 years - but was bitterly disappointed with his overall performance.

The 19-year-old competed in all four events, Slalom, Giant Slalom, Super G and Downhill over the six days of the championships, held in the Mont Blanc region of France.

The first day of competition saw TJ compete in the Giant Slalom. Starting the race ranked in 58th place TJ skied a very solid 1st run to make up 18 places which meant he would start the 2nd run in 40th position. Again he put in another solid performance to make up a further 7 places and finish just outside the top 30 in 33rd position.

The following day saw TJ compete in his best discipline the Super G.

As Great Britain's only competitor to qualify for these Championships, TJ was a real medal contender in the Super G event, being ranked No8 for the race. As he was ranked so highly he was able to draw his own start number, so he chose No15 to give himself the best possible chance.

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However things started to go wrong that night as he was struck down with a stomach bug which kept him up all night. In temperatures of around -20oC, a very tired TJ took to the course. He skied the top third of the course perfectly and was the fastest of the top 15 at that point.

Then disaster struck as he had carried too much speed into the most technical part of the course and was unable to make it through a control gate so his race was over.

A bitterly disappointed TJ said: 'I am absolutely gutted! I was going for that medal. A number of the other top guys had made mistakes or had crashed out before me, so I even had a chance of winning it.

'Having only had two hours' sleep last night didn't help, as I certainly wasn't at my sharpest, but I'm not making excuses, as I should have scrubbed off more speed for the technical section.'

Ironically, TJ had beaten the Frenchman that eventually won the race just five days earlier at the Austrian Junior championships.

Day Three of the championships was the Slalom, TJ's least favoured event. This was a night event under floodlights.

Starting with a very high bib number of 66, TJ produced the best first run of his life.

Dad Andrew said: 'He amazed the crowd of over 5000 by skiing through the deep ruts into 24th position, making up a massive 32 places. His brilliant performance even drew praise from the Austrian, German and American coaches.'

With the fastest 30 racers from the first run now racing in reverse order, TJ started the second run at No7. Watched by millions of viewers live on Eurosport he gave it 100 per cent to try to break into the top 15.

Again he skied the top third of the course brilliantly and was as fast as anyone at that point, then disaster struck again. A small slip inside and he straddled the next control gate and he was eliminated from the race.

'I was just so pleased to make the top 30 after the first run, it then gives you a real chance to attack the second run and get a great result,' said TJ. 'I had to go at 100 per cent to get into the top 15, but I am so annoyed that it was just a stupid little slip that put me out.'

With bad weather forecast for the end of the Championships, the Downhill race was brought forward by two days.

The training run had gone well for TJ where he had finished 8th so things were looking good for a top 10 finish. TJ had probably the most difficult start number - bib 1.

Hitting speeds of around 70mph, he skied a pretty faultless run which laid down the target for everyone to aim for. But other skiers were coming down and finishing just a few hundredths of a second quicker, eventually pushing him down to 18th position.

The race was one of the closest on record with first to 18th place (TJ) being covered by just 0.95 seconds!

The resulting FIS world ranking points were TJ's best ever and mean that he will move up at least 10 places on the Junior World ranking list for Downhill to around 20th position.

Talking after the race TJ said: 'I gave it my best shot today. When I saw my time I thought that it would be totally destroyed by the rest of the field. But as the race went on and they were only beating me by the odd few tenths and hundredths it probably wasn't so bad after all.

'To be less than one second from the winner's time is pretty satisfying, although very frustrating too. It's just one heartbeat away from glory.'

TJ revealed how the build-up to the championships were disrupted by the sport's governing body going into administration.

He said: 'At the end of the day I am just so relieved to have competed here. With Snowsport GB going into administration and all the money frozen I didn't know how I was going to get here or if I even had a coach with me.

'It wasn't until the day before the champs that I managed to find the extra cash to pay for everything. I really want to thank Sunfold Systems of Wymondham, my main sponsor, for putting up the extra money to enable me to compete.

'With no governing body and no money it means there is no GB team racing and training programme. I just don't know what is going to happen for the rest of the season for me or my team-mates.

'I am now top 20 in the World Junior rankings in three of the five disciplines and yet I have no coach or programme or money to compete with! I am very angry and frustrated about the whole situation.'

If anyone would like to help TJ in anyway please contact dad Andrew on 01508 531203 or or visit his web site