Tahoe’s Travis Ganong opens season on podium in Lake Louise
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Earlier this year, Travis Ganong participated in an email Q-and-A with the Sierra Sun from the U.S. training camp in Chile. Click here to read more about his summer offseason, his new home in Tahoe City and more.
LAKE LOUISE, Alberta — Travis Ganong couldn’t have asked for a much better start to the 2015-16 World Cup season.
The Squaw Valley skier raced to a third-place finish in the Lake Louise downhill on Saturday and followed with a fourth-place finish in the super G on Sunday. It was his best-ever super G finish and his top result at Lake Louise in the downhill.
“I’ve really struggled here at Lake Louise in the past,” said Ganong, whose best finish at Lake Louise prior to Saturday was a 10th place. “I really didn’t do well here when I was at the NorAm level, kind of figuring it out. This year the snow is just so perfect that I was able to push hard and ski like I want to ski and be competitive.
“So I’m really happy with how it worked out. On a day like today it’s the best day to be a racer — it’s perfect conditions, perfect weather, sunny. It’s a good start to the winter.”
The downhill track at Lake Louise was yet again the creator of a comeback fairytale as Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal claimed victory by the narrowest possible margin, just 0.01 seconds, in his first World Cup speed race since an Achilles injury kept him off tour all of last season.
He edged out Italian Peter Fill, who held the lead from his bib 4 start all the way until Svindal came down 16 skiers later.
Ganong was the first U.S. Ski Team athlete on course, and his time held up for third place despite numerous attacks from the top seven skiers.
Pre-race favorite Kjetil Jansrud was going for broke on the hill, and his aggressive movements and direct line cost him the tenths that Svindal managed to hold. Jansrud ultimately finished ninth, 0.77 seconds off his teammate, after a rough and ragged run.
“On race day people get really over-amped sometimes,” Ganong said. “You saw that today, like Jansrud had some mistakes and some of the other favorites had mistakes because they were pushing really hard. For me it’s all about staying relaxed and skiing within myself and having fun and trusting in my ability.”
Among other American racers, Steven Nyman tied for 16th and Andrew Weibrecht tied for 24th, while Squaw Valley skiers Bryce Bennett and Marco Sullivan finished 38th and 41st, respectively. Wiley Maple was 49th.
Svindal secured back-to-back wins with another victory in Sunday’s super G. He was joined on the podium by Matthias Mayer of Austria and Fill.
The day felt similar to Saturday’s downhill in more ways than one.
Pleasant temperatures, a nearly cloudless sky, and Fill laying down a fast time within the top of the order contributed to a sense that the magic of Bill Murray’s “Groundhog Day” could be in the air.
Then Ganong, whose previous best super G result was sixth in Kitzbuehel in 2014, cracked in right behind Fill at 0.06 seconds slower. When Svindal made a costly error once again but still managed to come down in the lead, almost a half-second ahead of Fill, the potential podium looked nearly identical to Saturday’s with the addition of Austrian Max Franz tying Ganong for the final spot.
But, Svindal took the win again, his ninth podium and eighth victory at the Canadian speed venue.
Ganong was still stoked on the day, even though his was just .06 seconds off the podium.
“It was good skiing today and solid, no big mistakes. I’m really happy,” Ganong said. “I think I lost like two-tenths in the first eight seconds, so that cost me the podium. I have bad shoulders and my thumb’s hurt so I can’t really push that hard. That’s kind of frustrating, but the skiing after that was good.”
Ganong, who had surgery on his thumb last week, leaves Lake Louise with indications that he could be a serious threat in two disciplines on the tour this winter.
“I’ve always been really fast in training in super G; I just haven’t had a breakthrough like this yet in my super G career. So it’s really awesome to start chipping away at super G as well,” Ganong said. “In training I do it all the time with Svindal and these guys; we train with them and are right in there with them. It’s good to get one on race day.”
Nyman, in 21st, and Weibrecht, in 26th, were the only other scoring athletes from the U.S. Ski Team.
The World Cup men now move on to Beaver Creek, Colo., to race downhill, super G and giant slalom starting Wednesday.