Barbara Ann Cochran, the 1972 Olympic slalom champion, screamed and screamed as she watched — on a screen from her Vermont home at 5:45 a.m. — as her son, Ryan Cochran-Siegle, descended to his first win in his 101st World Cup start.
“As if I’m right there on the hill, like he could hear me,” she said. “Hopefully, I’m not waking the neighbors up.”
Her phone flooded with messages. Later that morning, Cochran, who turns 70 on Monday, did what she’s been doing regularly for the last 40 years. She gave a ski lesson at Cochran’s Ski Area in Richmond, Vt. Afterward, she was able to connect by phone with her son, a skier since age 2.
Cochran-Siegle, a 28-year-old from an extended family of Olympians and World Cup skiers, notched one of the Skiing Cochrans’ greatest achievements in Bormio, Italy, on Tuesday.
The breakthrough on Alpine skiing’s highest level marked the first World Cup super-G victory for a U.S. man since Bode Miller in 2006. (Ted Ligety won the super-G among three golds at the world championships in 2013.)
Cochran-Siegle prevailed by .79 of a second over Austrian Vincent Kriechmayr — the largest margin in the discipline in nearly five years. Norwegian Adrian Smiseth Sejersted took third. Full results are here.
“I don’t think it’s hit yet,” Cochran-Siegle said on ORF, laughing about not having a sponsor sticker on the front of his helmet and believing his mother was likely crying back home. “You always dream of it as a kid, and to be here now is special.”
It became the 33rd bullet point on the family’s Wikipedia page. The timeline begins in 1961, when grandparents Mickey and Ginny began offering after-school lessons on the backyard rope tow, and Cochran’s Ski Area was founded.
Barbara remembers giving her first lesson when she was 10, to a young couple in their 20s. This was back when the ski fare was 25 cents to use the rope tow that Mickey installed behind the house and opened to the public.
Cochran-Siegle no doubt learned plenty from his mom, but she was never his coach. (Barbara does recall a young Ryan taking a run and smashing through a lodge window — “half-in, half-out” — leaving an indelible scar on his behind.)
By 2012, Cochran-Siegle won the world junior titles in the downhill and combined, just before his 20th birthday. He appeared destined to be the next great Skiing Cochran when, at the following year’s senior world championships, he tore an ACL and MCL in the combined.
“The doctors actually felt that he wouldn’t come back from that,” Barbara said. “I felt like it really took him about six years to recover to the point where he would have been.”
Cochran-Siegle raced just once on the World Cup over the next three years, missing the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
His first World Cup top-10 came on this day four years ago, also in Italy (Santa Caterina). His first podium came 10 days ago, also in Italy (Val Gardena, where his mom won a 1970 World Championships slalom silver medal.)
“Having success in Gardena, I feel like I can trust myself now, trust to just let things flow,” he said Tuesday. “There’s a certain [level] of confidence that I have right now that allows me to ski with what looks like a little bit of risk but also kind of carrying with some smooth skiing.”
Mom also watched and screamed during that Val Gardena downhill, where Cochran-Siegle placed second for the first speed podium for a U.S. man in nearly four years. The U.S. has been waiting for its next gold-medal male downhiller since Miller last raced in 2015.
“I always get nervous,” she said, “but I felt a little less nervous this time knowing how well he did last weekend.”
There was more concern a few weeks ago. Cochran-Siegle, who lived with his mom from March to June of this year, began this season by failing to finish the first two giant slaloms in October and November.
In between, he took part in the national championships and placed third and fourth in the super-G and downhill in fields lacking the top World Cup racers. Then, in the first World Cup super-G of the season on Dec. 12, he made a major mistake and finished 47th of 50 racers, 3.16 seconds behind the winner.
Barbara checked in on him. She recalled a November SkiRacing.com article where her son was quoted saying that he wanted “to be a top-five contender every time I step into the starting gate.” Cochran-Siegle had one career top-five finish before this season — a fifth.
“That’s a good goal,” she said, “but you don’t want to be thinking that when you’re in the start because it just puts too much pressure on you.”
Since that day, Cochran-Siegle has recorded three top-10s in five races. He was in the top 10 in all four downhill training runs in that span, including posting the fastest time in Bormio on Saturday and Sunday.
That makes him a favorite for Wednesday’s downhill, the last race of 2020 (5:30 a.m. ET, Olympic Channel and Peacock Premium).
“I don’t think I’m the favorite tomorrow,” he said. “Watching video yesterday, I think there were a lot of good skiers. I’m still young. I’m still learning.”
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