Travis Ganong scores big in Bormio, continues solid rookie season |

Travis Ganong scores big in Bormio, continues solid rookie season

Andrew Dampf
The Associated Press

BORMIO, Italy and#8212; Travis Ganong is heading home for the New Yearand#8217;s holiday one happy skier.

The 22-year-old rookie from Squaw Valley finished 20th in the World Cup race Wednesday on the intimidating Stelvio course for his first downhill points on the international circuit.

Putting down that type of result in his first visit to Bormio and#8212; widely considered the most physically demanding downhill course in the sport and#8212; is similar to a golfer finishing 20th the first time he plays the Masters.

and#8220;To have a place like Bormio to do it at is kind of special,and#8221; Ganong said. and#8220;This is one of the big ones. It was awesome.and#8221;

Ganong placed one spot ahead of Swiss veteran Didier Cuche, who has won the World Cup downhill season title three times.

Considered one of the U.S. Ski Teamand#8217;s brightest prospects, Ganong began honing his natural talent with intense physical workouts last season. That effort resulted in downhill and super G titles at the national championships.

and#8220;He was so naturally talented, but he realized that can only get him to one level,and#8221; said teammate Steven Nyman. and#8220;To get to the next level he really had to work. He moved to Utah (the U.S. teamand#8217;s Center of Excellence is located in Park City) and worked during the summer. Itand#8217;s a cool little story.and#8221;

In his first full World Cup season, Ganong has been taking in all the sights and sounds of the Alps.

After the speed races in Val Gardena this month, he and Nyman put their racing boards aside and became regular ski tourists for a day. They traveled around the Sella Ronda, an immense collection of interconnected ski areas in the Dolomite Range.

Ganong and Nyman skied to watch Ted Ligety win his third consecutive giant slalom in the next valley, Alta Badia.

and#8220;Our team has the two best skiers in the world right now in Lindsey (Vonn) and Ted,and#8221; Ganong wrote on his blog, which documented the trip. and#8220;And we have talented younger skiers that are knocking on the doors of success, as well as the coaches and staff to make it happen, so watch out for the U.S. Ski Team to accomplish a lot this new year, and in years to come!and#8221;

Ganong got some help from another top American in Bormio. Bode Miller, who has three career victories on the Stelvio, guided his younger teammate with in-depth course reports radioed up to the start.

and#8220;He has the best course reports ever,and#8221; Ganong said. and#8220;I understood everything he was talking about and changed my tactics and game plan accordingly. He has so much good advice.and#8221;

This was a rare race where Miller was hanging out in the team hotel because he didnand#8217;t bring along his personal motor home. It coincided with the best results this season for the Americans in downhill.

Miller placed eighth to tie his best result of the season, while still searching for a win. Nyman tied two-time overall World Cup winner Aksel Lund Svindal for 11th, his best result in two years. Ganong was the only other U.S. starter.

and#8220;Weand#8217;re building. The camaraderie is there, itand#8217;s getting better and better,and#8221; Nyman said. and#8220;It was cool here because Bode was chilling with us, and heand#8217;s usually off on his bus, and I think thatand#8217;s kind of inspiring. We need some of that inspiration on the team right now.and#8221;

Ganong grew up idolizing another Tahoe-area skier, Daron Rahlves. At 5 foot 11 and 170 pounds, Ganong is smaller than most downhillers, but heand#8217;s similar in size to Rahlves, who posted two victories on the Stelvio during his career.

and#8220;I just have to ski better and nail the line and aerodynamics and gain time on the turns,and#8221; Ganong said. and#8220;They might be heavier and bigger than me but weand#8217;re all skiers. Weand#8217;ve all got skis, boots and bindings.and#8221;

The U.S. team was missing another Squaw Valley skier Wednesday, as Marco Sullivan was hospitalized following a crash during downhill training a day earlier.

and#8220;Itand#8217;s really a shame that Marco couldnand#8217;t be out here today,and#8221; Ganong said. and#8220;We were all thinking about him. Heand#8217;s one of the team leaders and a guy I look up to a lot.and#8221;

Ganong is heading home for a break before the classic races in Wengen and Kitzbuehel next month.

and#8220;Theyand#8217;re supposed to get three feet of snow in Squaw the day I come back,and#8221; he said while a group of kids tugged at his arms for autographs. and#8220;Iand#8217;m going to get a bunch of powder skiing in. Itand#8217;s good for the mind and the body.and#8221;

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