Who will American downhill fans turn to if Bode Miller retires? Travis Ganong is your man.
Ganong, 26, grabbed silver in the World Championships downhill in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Saturday, the biggest result of his burgeoning career.
“I’ve been dreaming of this race all winter,” Ganong said. “This is the best moment of my career.”
Swiss Patrick Kueng earned gold, .24 ahead of Ganong. Another Swiss, Beat Feuz, was third, .31 behind. Three-time U.S. Olympian Steven Nyman was fourth, .03 out of the medals. (full results here)
None of the top five skiers had won an Olympic or Worlds medal before.
Ganong, a Squaw Valley, Calif., native, impressed with a fifth place in his Olympic debut in the Sochi downhill last year.
He made his first World Cup podium one month later and notched his first World Cup victory on Dec. 28.
“It’s a building process,” Ganong said. “You have to learn how to ski downhill. It’s a dangerous sport.”
Ganong became the first American to win a Worlds downhill medal since Bode Miller and Daron Rahlves went one-two in 2005.
Miller, 37, told NBC’s Dan Hicks that he’s “leaning pretty heavy towards” retiring following his World Championships super-G crash Thursday.
The retired Rahlves was a forerunner for Saturday’s race and rode a chair lift with Ganong.
“[Rahlves] was an idol of mine growing up,” Ganong recently said. “I really try to emulate my skiing from what he did.”
The two go hiking and mountain biking in the summer, and they watched film two days ago of Rahlves’ 2003 World Cup downhill win on the same hill. Ganong said he learned some of Rahlves’ “tricks and tactics,” according to The Associated Press.
Ganong was part of a surprising podium Saturday.
Kueng, 31, became the first Swiss man to win the World Championships downhill in 18 years. Kueng entered with two World Cup victories in 84 starts and a best Olympic/Worlds finish of seventh.
He won his first World Cup race on the Beaver Creek Birds of Prey course on Dec. 7, 2013, and nearly crashed there two months ago.
Feuz, 27, entered with five World Cup victories, but none in almost three years. His best Olympic/Worlds finish before Saturday was ninth.
No Austrian man finished in the top 10 of a World Championships downhill for the first time since at least 1939, perhaps ever, according to International Ski Federation records.
The World Championships continue with Ted Ligety defending his title in the super combined Sunday (NBC and Live Extra, 5 p.m. ET).