Ski ace blitzes the Brits

Ski ace TJ Baldwin has once again proved that he is the very best Junior in Britain.The 18-year-old from Tharston won four out of the five titles up for grabs at the British Junior Alpine Ski Championships, held in Meribel, France.

Ski ace TJ Baldwin has once again proved that he is the very best Junior in Britain.

The 18-year-old from Tharston won four out of the five titles up for grabs at the British Junior Alpine Ski Championships, held in Meribel, France.

He won the the Junior (U21) Downhill, Super G, Slalom and Overall combined tiles.

The Junior champs were held alongside the Senior champs during the first eight days of April with all races open to both Senior and Junior International competitors.

A number of British and International World Cup and Europa cup racers took part as very good FIS world ranking points were up for grabs.

In a gruelling schedule of nine races in those eight days, TJ blew away all the other juniors in most of the events.

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The first race was the Junior Downhill, held for the first time over the very demanding full-length 1992 Olympic course.

TJ stormed down the course with almost a faultless run and was just in a class of his own winning the British Junior (U21) championship for the first time by a massive margin of 3.8 seconds.

He also won the gold medal for being the highest placed International Junior competitor.

The following morning was the Senior Downhill championship held on the same course, where TJ was hoping to get into the top three.

Unfortunately, a couple of mistakes on his run meant that he was nearly one second slower that the previous day and finished in fifth position. He was however, the first British and International Junior racer again.

Speaking after the race, TJ said 'I was really pleased with my win in the Junior champs. I had a great run and was really pushing the seniors who competed. I was pretty disappointed with the mistakes I made in the Senior event as it cost me a possible podium finish.'

The tough programme then entered the most demanding day with two Super Gs and one Super combined race in the space of just nine hours.

The Senior Super G was on an extremely fast and icy course. TJ was again going for a top-three finish to emulate his result from last year.

Unfortunately a mistake going into a sharp bend two-thirds of the way down meant that he missed a gate and his race was over.

With the temperature rising and the sun on the course, conditions for the Junior Super G were much softer.

In his strongest event and knowing the mistake he had made in the Senior race TJ flew down the course to retain the Junior title by 1.5 seconds and again win the International Junior Gold medal.

This is the third time in a row that he has won the Junior Super G title, a feat that has never been done before. He also scored his best FIS world ranking points of the season.

'I was really annoyed that I messed up in the Senior race,' he remarked. 'I had been training with the Senior team and been as quick as most of them so I knew I could push for the podium position again. My run in the Junior race was much better and it's great to have won it three times in a row which no-one else has done before.'

With the snow conditions softening, TJ was very disappointed not to finish the Slalom run of the Senior Super Combined race later that day and also the Senior Slalom race the following evening.

'I just went too hard into each race for the snow conditions. I should have held back a little!' he admitted.

Next up was the Senior Giant Slalom (GS). Then two-run event, was a closely-fought affair with less than two seconds separating the top-six Brits.

TJ's first run had a number of mistakes which left him too far behind to challenge for a podium on the second run. He eventually finished in sixth place, but was still the top-placed British and International Junior, which boded well for the following day's Junior Giant Slalom championship.

The race started really well with TJ storming down the top three-quarters of the course in great style. However disaster struck close to the finish when he fell and nearly crashed out of the course.

He managed to get back on track to complete his run, but was lying 1.1 seconds behind the leading British junior racer. This proved to be too great a margin to claw back in the second run and he had to settle for second position.

'To say I was gutted at not winning today is a real understatement! The race was mine for the taking. I went into it as No1 British seed. One mistake cost me the race, but that's skiing for you!'

TJ then had to pick himself back up for the Junior Slalom championship. Slalom is his weakest event but he was still the No1 British seed.

The race went perfectly to plan with TJ putting in a very solid first run to lead by 1.1 seconds. His second run was even better and he extended his lead to win the British title by a convincing 2.6 seconds and score his second best FIS world ranking points result ever. He was also the first International Junior.

'I had to lay down a strong first run time to put the pressure on my rivals. My second run was really fast but with a few sketchy moments. I thought I was going to crash out on three occasions but I managed to stay strong and keep it together.

'I was really tired at the end after such a hectic eight days!' he admitted.

By winning the Junior Downhill, Super G and Slalom; and with his second place in the Giant Slalom, TJ was crowned with the coveted British Junior Overall combined championship.

The FIS world ranking points gained from these events plus other results gained earlier in the season now mean that TJ is ranked as No1 British Junior in Downhill, Super G, Giant Slalom, Slalom and Super Combined.

He is now also world ranked for his year of birth at number six in Super G, No21 in Super combined, No24 in Downhill, No55 in Giant Slalom and No85 in Slalom.

TJ was quick to acknowledge the part his backers have played in his success.

'I would really like to thank my sponsors for all the help and support this season. Sunfold Systems of Wymondham, Chillspeed of Diss, and The Ski Club of Great Britain help to pay for my training costs.

'The grant from The Norfolk Sports & Cultural Foundation has also been invaluable. Without all their financial support none of this would have been possible.'

After the Championships TJ started a 10-day rest period before heading back out to Austria to start his summer training on the Kaprun glacier in preparation for his final season of racing as a Junior, which should start in September in Chile.