Travis Ganong happy to be back after missing the ‘rush of World Cup downhill’ | SierraSun.com

Travis Ganong happy to be back after missing the ‘rush of World Cup downhill’

Travis Ganong zips through downhill training for the Xfinity Birds of Prey Audi FIS Ski World Cup Wednesday, Nov. 28, in Beaver Creek.
Chris Dillmann / cdillmann@vaildaily.com

A torn ACL while racing the downhill at Bormio, Italy, sidelined the U.S. Ski Team’s Travis Ganong from the start of 2018 to August, when he finally got back on snow.

While in rehab, the 29-year-old American missed the Winter Olympics in South Korea and also some good powder days in his hometown of Squaw Valley, California.

“I was just sitting there, (watching) from my living room …” Ganong said after his downhill training for the Xfinity Birds of Prey Audi International Ski Federation World Cup on Wednesday, Nov. 28.

To start the season and his return to the World Cup, Ganong finished 38th in the downhill at Lake Louise, Alberta, and 17th in super-G. At Birds of Prey in Beaver Creek, Colorado, Ganong raced to a 15th-place finish in super-G and 28th in downhill.

“It’s so nice to be back. To be away from it for that long, it’s really nice to be back with all the guys on the circuit,” said Ganong. “The rush of World Cup downhill is amazing. I definitely missed it. The next step is regaining confidence and challenging myself.”

Finding That Last Gear

Still not at 100 percent, Ganong said, during the late November interview, he is still feeling soreness sometimes and is taking it easy while saving his chances for race days.

With an injury that usually takes about 18 months to heal fully, Ganong said he is being careful 11 months in.

“I’m just building confidence each week and try to manage the knee,” he said. “It’s nice to be back racing.”

Ganong started his return in August with some training in New Zealand, all easy drills. Bad weather in Chile hindered any serious training there. But early-season training at Copper Mountain helped Ganong and the rest of the team get some practice in before hitting the World Cup circuit.

“Copper was good this year,” Ganong said. “We had a lot of good days there.”

In downhill, where skiers can hit speeds of close to 80 mph, it takes more than being physically fit.

“Mentally I feel ready, but there’s still that last gear I have to find again and start taking some chances,” he said.

Steven Nyman, another member of U.S. Ski Team familiar with returning from injuries of his own, spent time with Ganong this summer in the recovery program.

“He and I spent a lot of time together and roomed together,” Nyman said. “We talked about what we need to reinforce. Guys took steps forward, but they haven’t tasted winning yet, and we want to reinforce that winning mentality. We’re not here to qualify for the A team or get top 15 — we’re here to win. That’s what we’ve talked about trying to reinforce. Hopefully we can do that. I have work to do and he has work to do as well, but we’re getting there.”

Last weekend, Ganong posted his best finish of the year, taking sixth in downhill in Val Gardena, Italy. He entered the race after posting the fastest downhill time during training. Ganong also took 24th in super-G last weekend.

“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,” said Ganong in an interview with US Ski & Snowboard. “The first couple of races I was nervous, I was scared about my knee, and now I’m just relaxing and enjoying skiing.”

The Vail Daily is a sister publication of the Sierra Sun. Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2984 and rleonhart@vaildaily.com. Sierra Sun reporter Justin Scacco contributed to this report.