Bryce Bennett finishes career-best sixth in Val Gardena downhill
VAL GARDENA, Italy
Squaw Valley skier Bryce Bennett electrified the crowd with an attack from the back to lead the U.S. men with a career-best sixth-place finish in Saturday’s World Cup downhill in Val Gardena, Italy.
Long after Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal won yet another downhill this season, Bennett, wearing bib 57, stepped into the starting gate and looked Svindal-esque as he capitalized on his large 6-foot-7-inch frame to keep his skis on the snow and carry speed through key sections where other skiers were thrown off line and forced to make recoveries.
Crossing the finish line 1.04 seconds back, the once hush crowd erupted in cheers as Bennett lifted his goggles in sheer disbelief before letting a well-deserved fist pump fly.
“I’m still surprised. I crossed the finish and saw sixth and I was like, ‘What? No chance! The timer is broken!’” an exhilarated Bennett said in the finish. “I just got in the zone somehow. I’ve been working on it, and it clicked a little bit. I just laser-beamed the whole course, just focused every section and it was fast.”
The victory for Svindal was his fifth in seven World Cup starts this season. Guillermo Fayed of France was second, followed by Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud in third.
In addition to Bennett’s stellar performance, Steven Nyman, who was gunning for his fourth career win in Val Gardena, finished ninth, Travis Ganong of Squaw Valley was 13th, and Andrew Weibrecht 17th, giving the Americans an impressive four skiers in the top 20. Marco Sullivan of Squaw Valley was 35th.
For Bennett, finding the maturity to shake off a bad performance in Friday’s super G was the key to how he was able to channel his inner self and come away with a stunning result.
“Yesterday went terribly. I was thinking just sideways thoughts all day, so today I tried to ski a bit more and just read a book and just not really think about skiing,” he said. “When I got in the gate, I just skied. I don’t know what happened.”
The men’s speed team will compete in Santa Caterina from Dec. 27-29, while the tech team will compete in giant slalom in Alta Badia on Sunday.
Coming off a career-best super G result at Beaver Creek, Weibrecht recorded the top American finish in fifth in Friday’s super G.
Ganong finished 19th, Jared Goldberg was 21st, Nyman 28th, Sullivan 46th, Bennett 48th and Tommy Biesemeye 50th.
Svindal notched his fourth career victory in the Val Gardena super G, while fellow countrymen Jansrud and Aleksander Aamodt Kilde. It was the third ever Norwegian World Cup podium sweep and first ever in super G. Austria’s Matthias Meyer was fourth.