Young Ritchie Scores First Points and a Career-Best 13th in World Champs Slalom
On yet another day in paradise—a.k.a. Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy—the U.S. men’s slalom team showed some fast skiing, led by 20-year-old Ben Ritchie, with a career-best 13th place finish to lead the way for the young American squad in the Cortina 2021 slalom finale.
The Attacking Vikings lived up to their name, with Norwegian Sebastian Foss-Solevaag grabbed his second individual career victory, first individual world title, and second World Championship gold (Team Event) at Cortina 2021. Austrian Adrian Pertl put up a good fight, finishing second, .21 seconds back, followed by Norwegian teammate Henrik Kristoffersen in third, .46 off Foss-Solevaag’s pace. The three seemed to be in a league of their own, as hometown favorite Alex Vinatzer was fourth, 1.2 seconds out.
The International Ski Federation (FIS) made the controversial decision after the women’s slalom was challenged with tough conditions and warm weather on Saturday, to reverse the top-15 rather than the top-30 to “respect the top stars,” as men’s race director Markus Waldner said. Though U.S. Ski Team coaches weren’t exactly on board with the change, the young American squad lived up to the challenge and showed their speed, as 2019 NCAA slalom champion and University of Denver alumnus Jett Seymour had the 10th-fastest time, from bib 43. Teammates Luke Winters and Ben Ritchie were 15th and 17th, respectively. With the new rule, Winters started first the second run and Seymour sixth.
Winters was skiing a solid run, but straddled and DNFed. Seymour was also ripping a fast and solid run, but straddled and DNFed. “It’s disappointing, for sure, but I went out to go racing and wanted to see what was possible,” reflected Seymour. “That happens sometimes...it’s part of the sport. Worlds was an awesome experience, and I’m looking forward to the next one.”
Starting 17th the second run, Ritchie ended up 13th and grabbed his career-first points, as WCSL points are awarded to the top-15 at World Championships. Ritchie and Seymour, who each raced in their career-first Europa Cups last week and each grabbed podiums—first place for Ritchie and third place for Seymour—came into World Championships feeling confident and were looking to carry that momentum to show what they could do on the big stage. In the end, they proved to the world that, though they are a young squad, they are fast and have a promising future ahead.
“It was a lot of fun skiing and training together...we’ve spent all year together, so we’ve gone through the ups and downs and figured out how to be fast together,” said Ritchie. “So, when one person does well, the whole team feels positive about it. We’re all trending upwards right now, so I think the future is exciting.” After the first run, the Americans had three in the top-20. “It was awesome to be three in the top-20, obviously I don’t think a lot of people were expecting that coming in, but I think all three of us were, and I personally think that all three of us still could have skied much better than we did. We all have more speed...and it’s just about getting the experience and doing it on race day.”
Though it was a solid result, Ritchie feels he and his teammates have more speed to show and are eager to do so. “I’m happy with my result, first points,” he added. “Like I said, I still think I could ski much better both runs...it was a really hard day out there, a lot of DNFs, a lot of straddles, a lot of big mistakes because the course was so difficult, so I’m happy with it overall.” Ritchie is still a junior and will compete in the World Junior Ski Championships in Bansko, Bulgaria in March. He hopes to ski strong and gain a spot for World Cup Finals at Lenzerheide, Switzerland in late March.
Alex Leever—also a University of Denver alumnus—started for the Americans as well, but did not finish first run. Up next for the crew is a training block in Cortina, before the next Europa Cup series in Oberjoch, Germany.
HOW TO WATCH
All times EST
Sunday, Feb. 21
12:00 p.m. FIS World Alpine Championships Women's Slalom - next-day broadcast, Cortina d'Ampezzo, ITA, Broadcast NBC