WYCOMBE alpine skier Ben Sneesby took a huge stride towards the 2014 Winter Games when he was named on the Paralympic long list.
The 18-year-old is one of 12 downhill skiers named, all of whom could go to Sochi, Russia, next February.
He said: “There is a good chance I’ll get in. There have been rumours that we’ll all go, or maybe two will be cut so it was very good news.
“I’m not sure if I was expecting it, but my skiing has really improved and people were saying I was smashing it.
“But when I got the confirmation it was amazing. I was so, so happy. I forwarded the email straight to my parents and they said they were so proud.”
Sneesby’s selection is just rewards for his unstinting dedication and focus.
After finishing at John Hampden last summer he had a place waiting for him at Sheffield Hallam studying sports science.
However, he put that on hold to concentrate on his Paralympic dream and since the autumn has hardly been off the snow, even missing New Year celebrations with family and friends to stay in Austria and keep training.
He said: “I did miss them. It was also my first New Year being 18 so I missed going out with my friends too.
“There were beers in the fridge, but my coach said if I had one I’d be on the first plane back the next morning so I didn’t.
“It’s not a sacrifice, it’s a choice and look what’s happened now – I’m on the long list for the Olympics.”
Sneesby was by no means certain of getting this far when he decided last summer to put everything else in his life on hold.
He was on the GB radar and had been invited to the Olympic Park and Village in London as part of a British Paralympic Inspiration Programme.
But his times needed to improve significantly.
However, his decision to back himself is paying off.
He said: “When I was at school I’d only be on snow about three weeks a year. My skiing has come on so much because I’ve been on snow this season.
“I’ve got some pretty good results and have been moving up the rankings.
“I haven’t been podiuming, but I’ve been performing consistently and I’ve only been five seconds off the top boy, and it’s my first season.
“It’s been a good season progression-wise and I’ve been showing people what I can do.”
He’ll be hoping to do so again this weekend.
After a whistlestop return to England, Sneesby went back to Austria last Saturday for five further days of training before three days of competition – an ideal opportunity he says to prove to the coaches their faith is not misplaced.
He will also spend two months this summer training in New Zealand so it’s looking good, but Sneesby knows he’s not there yet.
He said: “A week or two ago it was one year until the Games start. The countdown has really started.”