Vermont’s Ryan Cochran-Siegle won the silver medal in the men’s super-G at the Beijing Games on Tuesday morning, finishing 0.04 seconds behind Austrian Matthias Mayer, who successfully defended the gold medal he won in PyeongChang four years ago.
Mayer was victorious in 1 minute, 19.94 seconds. The 29-year-old Cochran-Siegle, next down the mountain, finished in 1:19.98.
Cochran-Siegle, who competed in four events in PyeongChang and topped out with an 11th-place finish in the giant slalom, is the son of Barbara Cochran, who won the slalom at the 1972 Olympics nearly 50 years to the day of her son’s silver. Her brother, Bob, and sister, Marilyn, each competed in three events in 1972, and sister Lindy raced at the 1976 Games. Their children continued the tradition: Jimmy Cochran competed in the 2006 and 2010 Olympics, and Tim, Robby, and Jessica Kelley and Roger Brown all raced on the national team.
Ryan began skiing at 2 at the family’s modest ski area in Richmond alongside the Winooski River where in 1961 grandfather Mickey built a rope tow. He made his World Cup debut at 19 and the following season was named to the team for the 2013 world championships in Austria.
“What’s up Vermont? Hope that holds,” Cochran-Siegle said after crossing the finish line.
Marco Odermatt of Switzerland was among the favorites Tuesday in Beijing, but he lost control of his skis on a turn and skied out. Beat Fuez, who beat Mayer for gold in the downhill, did as well.
Cochran-Siegle, or “RCS,” as he’s known to everyone in skiing, has always been fast, but there were so many months, even years, at a time away from the World Cup circuit because of injuries, most notably a series of knee operations after tearing ligaments and damaging cartilage at the 2013 world championships and a fractured vertebra after a crash in January 2021.
“I just made sure I was giving myself as much of an opportunity to get back and trust that I was capable of being among the best,” Cochran-Siegle told The Associated Press.
“As a ski racer, you work up the levels and you become better, rankings-wise. Then you achieve a World Cup podium. And your first win,” he said, referring to key results that arrived in December 2020. “I realized that, mentally, I had the right stuff. It was just a matter of having my body 100 percent.”
Cochran-Siegle was, to use US ski team coach Forest Carey’s phrase, “down in the dumps,” after being 41st-fastest in Friday’s second downhill training run at a course known as The Rock.
Then came a 14th-place showing in Monday’s downhill race.
But Cochran-Siegle noticed Tuesday morning that the manufactured snow near the top of the slope was melting a tad, thanks to temperatures that topped 15 degrees Fahrenheit after being close to zero recently. That, he said, meant he “could be confident and really just push” and “increase my aggressiveness.”
“Smooth and clean, which is the name of the game for him,” said Forest Carey, head mean’s coach for the U.S. ski team.
Teammate Travis Ganong delivered a message at a meeting the Americans held Monday night.
“All of us were pushing really, really hard, and we all had mistakes, and we didn’t have a good result,” said Ganong, who went from 20th in the downhill to 12th in the super-G. “But the mentality and the mindset of that style of skiing is what it takes for medals. So I told the guys: ‘You just need to do the same thing (Tuesday). We’re shooting for medals. We’re all really, really good skiers, and on any given day, it can all come together.’ Ryan really took that to heart.”
Cochran-Siegle woke up Tuesday to a text from his mother, as he usually does on race days.
The gist: “I just hope you know how much people love you and are cheering for you, no matter the results you get.”