Bennett Rolls with the Punches, Just Off Podium in Bormio
On a gnarly Bormio downhill track, perhaps the gnarliest it’s been since the 1990s, Bryce Bennett (Squaw Valley, Calif.) matched his career best, finishing just off the podium once again behind Switzerland’s Beat Feuz by 15 hundredths of a second.
The Italian men put on a good show in front of the home crowd, with Dominik Paris taking the win and Christof Innerhofer in second by nearly four tenths. There appears to be a Swiss-American battle shaping up once again, as Bennett has been just off the podium the last two races behind Feuz, by 21 hundredths total. Bennett’s teammate and mentor, Steven Nyman (Sundance, Utah), had the same battle with Feuz during the 2016 season. In what was a tough fight with the mountain, Nyman ended up 16th.
“I want a podium pretty bad, but [Beat] Feuz - the Swiss guy with the red leader bib - just keeps beating me out,” Bennett said with a laugh following his run. He reflected on his run, “I don’t know what happened...I just kind of put it on the rev limiter and committed to the turn,” he said. But he admitted the conditions were tough in Bormio, “The first training runs were very unforgiving, and it was a little more unforgiving today. The men’s downhill field is very competitive right now, so if you make a mistake, you’re not going to be in there. Limiting the mistakes and putting your foot on the gas pedal every single race is what you have to do now, or you won’t be competitive. Today I was happy with my run...I didn’t know it was quite that good, which is usually a good sign.”
Nyman, who shares a serviceman and a ski company - Fischer - with Bennett, has been a huge source of guidance and leadership for the younger “Twin Tower.” “Without Steven, I would not be doing what I’m doing now,” said Bennett. “We inspected the entire course together, and he has so much experience and looks at things a different way, so it’s been very helpful for me to work with him to formulate a game plan together. We ski very similar. We share skis, we share a serviceman from Fischer, and I think we have a good quiver of skis. Our serviceman is busting his butt every day. I like working with him, because he’s similar to my father, as far as taking pride in the small details of your craft and he does a great job, so it’s fun to be around him.”
Though Nyman was somewhat disappointed with his 16th place finish, he was happy for Bennett. “It was really cool to see Bryce do so well” Nyman commented, in the finish area in Bormio. “I was fired up as I was watching in the lodge, and then he won that middle section and everyone was clapping. When the other guys came down in second or third, no one said anything, but with Bryce, they all clapped. People love him. People respect him. He has a heightened focus right now that’s really impressive to see and he’s analyzing a lot of things and convincing himself of what’s possible. He believes in himself and I think he knows he can attack anywhere.”
When asked by a journalist in the finish, “If Kitz is one hell of a ride, what’s Bormio?” Nyman thought for a few seconds and replied with a laugh, “It’s a boxing match - you’re getting punched all the way down and you have to take those punches and just keep moving and rolling with it all the way down. I had high expectations. I know I can do well here. Today I was just getting punched through all of the terrain and the chop. It’s a beast top to bottom this year. It’s brutal on the legs.”
The icy conditions were rough on bodies, mind, and equipment to boot. Travis Ganong (Squaw Valley, Calif.) decided to sit out today’s downhill after he lost a ski and went into the nets in the second downhill training run. Today, Ryan Cochran-Siegle (Starksboro, Vt.), who was the top American finisher in both training runs, walked right out of his ski before the third gate. He got up, skied away, and was not injured. Jared Goldberg (Holladay, Utah) finished in the points for the first time this season, landing in 28th. Wiley Maple (Aspen, Colo.) finished in 40th and Sam Morse (Sugarloaf, Maine) in 49th. Tommy Biesemeyer (Keene, N.Y.) did not finish but was also thankfully not injured.
The speed series continues with a super-G on Saturday at Bormio, before the men get to take a little break over the new year.
HOW TO WATCH
All times EST.
Preliminary schedule, subject to change
*Same-day delayed broadcast
Friday, Dec. 28
12:00 p.m. - Men’s downhill - Bormio, ITA - NBCSN*
Saturday, Dec. 29
4:30 a.m. - Women’s slalom run 1 - Semmering, AUT - NBC Sports Gold
5:15 a.m. - Men’s super-G - Bormio, ITA - Olympic Channel-TV, OlympicChannel.com & NBC Sports Gold
7:30 a.m. - Women’s slalom run 2 - Semmering, AUT - NBC Sports Gold
2:30 p.m. - Men’s super-G - Bormio, ITA - NBCSN*
5:00 p.m. - Women’s slalom - Semmering, AUT - NBC*