Three in Top Six; Career-Best For Bennett In Val Gardena
On another cold and beautiful day on the Saslong in Val Gardena, Italy, the Americans stacked three into the top six in the FIS Ski World Cup downhill, led by Bryce Bennett (Squaw Valley, Calif.) with a career-best fourth place - just off the podium by six hundredths. Fellow “Twin Tower” Steven Nyman (Sundance, Utah) was fifth, followed by Travis Ganong (Squaw Valley, Calif.) in sixth. The American downhillers showed their depth, as the United States was the only nation to have three men finish inside the top 10.
The track was perfect, and the snow was dry, buff and consistent - a little reminiscent of Colorado snow. The vibe was good from the start of the day, as the men were greeted by a nine-piece band outside of the Alpino Plan, a cherished Val Gardena race tradition, where they start at the hotel, making the rounds in town, and ending in the athlete team hospitality at the resort. Norway was once again victorious, with the Attacking Viking Aleksander Aamodt Kilde skiing a blazing fast run and winning by nearly one second, ahead of Austria’s Max Franz.
Nyman came down bib 12 and skied into third place, but his “Twin Tower” teammate Bennett came down bib 14 into third place just three hundredths faster, pushing Nyman into fourth. It looked like the podium was going to stick, but then the Swiss Beat Feuz snuck into third place ahead of Bennett by a mere six hundredths. With solid training runs under his belt and confidence to boot, Ganong came down bib 31 and skied into sixth place. Seven-hundredths separated Bennett and Ganong.
It’s been a solid and strong start for Bennett, who was 12th in Lake Louise, ninth in Beaver Creek - tied with Nyman, and fourth in Val Gardena. Just hundredths have separated he and Nyman, and they are now in a tie from a time differential standpoint. It’s a tie on the year for the Twin Tower time title, folks! "It was a solid run for me," Bennett reflected, "I'm pretty happy with it. I knew I could do well here. Obviously I wanted to do a little bit better, and I knew I was capable of that. This is for sure my favorite downhill, and one that I know I can perform my best on, with my skillset. But, I'm happy with the day. I'll take it!"
Though he had a couple of minor mistakes, Nyman - who was out with two different knee injuries for much of the last two seasons - was happy with the performance, "...for the most part, I skied the way I wanted to ski," he said. "The hill really shaped up. It was kind of soft and slow the first day, but the track got faster and faster and it's just great confidence builder here for me here. I love this hill...to be able to push for the win and know that I can compete for that top step is the reason I'm still racing. I'm really happy with the way I'm currently performing, I definitely can make steps forward...and my body is getting there. It's pretty cool to be so tight with Bryce right now."
Ganong, who is also returning from a season-ending knee injury in Bormio last season, is feeling more and more comfortable on his skis. "We're showing that we have what it takes now," Ganong commented, "it's been a year or so of inconsistencies with the speed team. We're starting to get in our groove now and the pieces of our team are in a really good spot. Now having a solid team result like this will definitely help as we go into the next part of the season. For me, coming off my knee injury, I'm just stoked to be back racing and being able to be competitive. I feel like I'm skiing really relaxed, which is nice. The first couple of races I was nervous, I was scared about my knee, and now I'm just relaxing and enjoying skiing."
Two more Americans stuck it into the top 30 from the back, including Tommy Biesemeyer (Keene, N.Y.), who went from bib 50 to 27th, and Wiley Maple (Aspen, Colo.) who skied from bib 53 to 28th.
The men will continue the pizza and pasta tour with a giant slalom on Sunday and a parallel giant slalom on Monday in Alta Badia.
HOW TO WATCH
All times EST.
Preliminary schedule, subject to change
*Same-day delayed broadcast
Saturday, Dec. 15
8:00 p.m. - Men’s downhill - Val Gardena, ITA - NBCSN-TV*
Sunday, Dec. 16
3:45 a.m. - Giant slalom run 1 - Alta Badia, ITA - OlympicChannel.com & NBC Sports Gold
7:00 a.m. - Giant slalom run 2 - Alta Badia, ITA - Olympic Channel-TV, OlympicChannel.com & NBC Sports Gold
6:00 p.m. - Giant slalom run 2 - Alta Badia, ITA - NBCSN-TV*
Fans can catch all the action in spectacular high definition via NBC Sports online atNBCSports.com/Live or through the NBC Sports app which is available on the iTunes App Store, Google Play, Windows Store, Roku Channel Store, Apple TV and Amazon Fire. Exclusive commercial-free coverage will be available for subscribers of the NBC Sports Gold Pass, available here: https://www.nbcsports.com/gold/snow.