What is the future of U.S. men’s Alpine skiing?
Travis Ganong consolidated his place going into the next Olympic cycle with his first career World Cup podium finish at the first post-Olympic race in Kvitfjell, Norway, on Friday.
Ganong, 25, took third in a downhill, .12 of a second behind co-winners Kjetil Jansrud of Norway and Georg Streitberger of Austria.
“This is a really big step in my career,” Ganong said. “I’ve been slowly building up the last four years on the World Cup tour and this last month or so I’ve really been finding some speed. Now I’m at a point where I’m really relaxed and having fun. The good skiing comes out when you’re relaxed and letting the skis roll.”
Ganong’s breakthrough came after a solid Olympics. He finished fifth in the Sochi downhill Feb. 9.
“I always told myself I’d get to this point,” Ganong said. “It was just a matter of time. I’ve had enough time now racing all these hills and I’m comfortable. I’m also stronger than I was last year and I’m more fit. I’m not burnt out at all. Usually at this time of year people are tired and right now I feel like I’m just starting out the season.”
He’s looking to be the face of U.S. men’s downhill skiing when Bode Miller calls it a career. Miller, 36, finished 16th on Friday. Olympic super-G silver medalist Andrew Weibrecht took 54th.
The other veteran U.S. Alpine star, Ted Ligety, is sitting out this weekend. He does not usually race downhills. Another downhill is slated for Saturday, followed by a super-G on Sunday.
Jansrud kept up his form from winning the Olympic super-G in Sochi. The Norwegian who tore an ACL at last year’s World Championships had not won a World Cup race in nearly two years.
Streitberger, 33, hadn’t finished first in a World Cup since Dec. 4, 2010. Countryman Matthias Mayer, the Olympic downhill champion, briefly lost balance near the top of the course and skied out.
Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal placed fifth and clinched the season title in the downhill for the second straight year, with two races to go.
The race for the overall title is tighter. Svindal earned 45 points to draw within 13 of leader Marcel Hirscher of Austria. Svindal is better in speed events. Hirscher excels in technical races. Hirscher is trying to become the third man ever to win three straight overall titles and the first since American Phil Mahre from 1981-83.
There are four speed races and four technical races left this season, meaning the overall competition could come down to the final stop in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, in two weeks.
Kvitfjell Downhill No. 1
1. Kjetil Jansrud (NOR) 1:05.72
1. Georg Streitberger (AUT) 1:05.72
3. Travis Ganong (USA) 1:05.84
4. Erik Guay (CAN) 1:05.95
5. Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR) 1:06.09
6. Guillermo Fayed (FRA) 1:06.10
7. Romed Baumann (AUT) 1:06.13
7. Otmar Striedinger (AUT) 1:06.13
9. Silvano Varettoni (ITA) 1:06.22
10. Didier Defago (SUI) 1:06.23
10. Dominik Paris (ITA) 1:06.23
16. Bode Miller (USA) 1:06.44
18. Steven Nyman (USA) 1:06.47
21. Marco Sullivan (USA) 1:06.55
47. Erik Fisher (USA) 1:07.17
54. Andrew Weibrecht (USA) 1:07.61
59. Jared Goldberg (USA) 1:07.86