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Monday, January 24, 2022

Bennett made it to Val Gardena by winning downhill

SELVA DI VAL GARDENA, Italy. The large jumps and varied terrain of the Saslong circuit remind American racers of home. Then there’s Babs, the innkeeper at the hotel where the US ski team has stayed for decades in Val Gardena, who treats athletes like their own children.

It has been the perfect recipe for success over the years and Bryce Bennett added another win for the team at a Dolomites resort on Saturday in the first classic downhill of the World Cup season.

The 6’7 ” California champion has joined his teammate Stephen Nyman (three downhill wins) and Bode Miller (one super-giant win) as the American winners at the Saslong.

“This is a magical place for us, and I am very glad that Bryce has kept the tradition,” said Nyman.

For his first career win, Bennett finished 0.14 seconds ahead of Otmar Stridinger of Austria and 0.32 seconds ahead of Niels Hintermann of Switzerland in ideal conditions.

“The feeling was quick,” Bennett said. “I flew off the springboard.”

Bennett has never finished better than fourth (twice in Val Gardena and once in Bormio) and now he can travel to the Beijing Olympics with renewed confidence.

“It just happened – finally. “It’s been a long time,” Bennett said. “It was a little off left field. … There were no expectations from this. “

The entire American squad has been picking up momentum lately: Travis Ganong finished on the podium in Beaver Creek, Colorado, and Ryan Cochran-Siegle is recovering his speed from his neck fracture last season, plus Nyman is back from injury at the age of 39. …

“We have a good team. We can do this. We just doubt ourselves sometimes, ”Bennett said. “This is a tough sport. Most of the time these are disappointments, so you have to overcome them and keep giving up, and then you will have such a day. “

Nyman recounted how he first learned Saslong’s secrets from Daron Ralves and Miller.

“He just bleeds out year after year,” Nyman said. “We continue to build each other. The cool thing is that guys keep coming and learning from their elders, and they keep doing it. “

On the Friday night before the race, Babs prepared spätzle, a local pasta dish, followed by chicken, potatoes and cauliflower. For dessert, there were lava cakes and tiramisu.

“Good old Babs food,” Nyman said.

It was a very special time for Bennett, who was recently engaged and is planning to get married next summer.

Sitting in the leader’s chair, Bennett called his parents home to Lake Tahoe, California, and called the bride-to-be, who was in Missouri.

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His bride was asleep.

“She missed it. I woke her up, ”Bennett said. “She’s like, ‘Are you kidding? “I’m like,” Look at the live time. ” She, like me, was speechless.

It was also a momentous day for American women as Breezy Johnson finished second to Olympic champion Sofia Gojia in the downhill race in Val d’Isere, France.

Although he was only 10th starter – almost all of the favorites were still skiing before the race – Bennett showed such a confident run that he seemed to immediately know she was special. He celebrated feverishly in the finish area, repeatedly waving his fists and poles and shouting.

“Bryce, you’re a ski star,” the race announcer shouted to the masked crowd.

Bennett and Nyman have the same ski technician, Leo Mussi, originally from the Dolomites. Mussi also worked for the Italian racer Christian Gedin, who shares the record of four downhill runs in Val Gardena with the great Austrian Franz Klammer.

“I knew the skis would be fast,” Bennett said. “When I’m bad at skiing right now, I’m just really sorry for Leo because he works so hard. He is my second dad. Steve, Leo, me, we have a good relationship. “

Bennett had barely sat down when the next starter, Alexander Amodt Kilde – the Norwegian who won three consecutive victories at Val Gardena – was faster than the American in all the first four checkpoints.

Kild was almost a full second ahead of Bennett entering the terrain-filled Ciaslat, but he was so fast that he lost control and went far out of line. Kilda barely managed to avoid a collision, but was unable to recover in time to overcome the next gate.

Local favorite Dominic Paris of Italy finished fourth, while the outstanding Swiss Beat Feuz finished fifth. Paris and Feuze were also faster than Bennett for most of the distance, but were unable to match the Tahoe City, Calif. Skier on the Ciaslat.

Bennett was a BMX racer as a kid and his cycling experience and long legs help him tackle the rough terrain in Ciaslat where there are small bumps and bumps.

“My whole life has been dedicated to someone who can hit the biggest cliff, jump off the most stupid things. So this part comes naturally to me – big jumps and air, ”Bennett said.

“But what I feel is BMX racing. … It’s just the feeling of being able to work with the terrain and use it. It gives me speed where people don’t think you can pick up speed. “

Andrew Dumpf

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