Bryce Bennett ended a near-five-year victory drought for American men’s downhillers, earning a surprise first World Cup podium by winning in Val Gardena, Italy, on Saturday.
Bennett, who was 16th in the 2018 Olympic downhill, edged Austrian Otmar Striedinger by .14 of a second on the Saslong course.
Swiss Niels Hintermann was third in an overall surprising podium lacking Olympic favorites Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, Matthias Mayer, Beat Feuz and Vincent Kriechmayr.
Kilde was .86 faster than Bennett more than halfway through the course before skiing out.
“Sucks for him,” Bennett said. “Worked out for me.”
Bennett became the first American man to win a World Cup downhill since Travis Ganong in January 2017. The gap between U.S. men’s downhill wins marked the longest since Daron Rahlves‘ first World Cup victory in 2000 ended a five-year drought since Kyle Rasmussen‘s last win.
Bennett did it at a venue known for U.S. success. Bennett, 6 feet, 7 inches, was fourth in Val Gardena last season, matching his best result in six years on the circuit. In that same race, Ryan Cochran-Siegle earned his first World Cup podium.
Three-time Olympian Steven Nyman has three World Cup wins, all at Val Gardena.
Bennett, a promising prospect a few years ago, largely struggled the last two seasons. His best finish in his five races before Saturday was 22nd. His fourth at Val Gardena last season was his lone top-five in any World Cup race since January 2019.
“My goals are to ski fast every weekend,” Bennett, a scruffy, bear-chasing Californian who shouted an expletive among screams in the finish area, said on ORF. “I have not been doing those goals at all.”
The men’s World Cup moves to Alta Badia for giant slaloms on Sunday and Monday.
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Bryce’s fiancé Kelley’s alarm didn’t go off so she missed Bryce’s inaugural World Cup win at @valgardena @skiworldcup. He called her from the leaderboard and told her to check out @fisalpine live timing. 😅😂🥰#worldcupvalgardena@TeamUSA@NBCOlympics pic.twitter.com/sjj3qek7EY
— U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team (@usskiteam) December 18, 2021