Bennett adds to US success in Valgardena with a downhill victory


Selva Divalgardena, Italy-The big jumps and various terrains of the Saslong course remind American racers of their hometown. Then there’s Babs, the owner of a hotel inn where the US ski team has been in Valgardena for decades. Babs treat athletes like their own children.

It’s the perfect recipe for success over the years, and Bryce Bennett added another win to the team at the Dolomites Resort on Saturday on the first classic downhill of the World Cup season.

The 6-foot-7 Californian joined teammates Steven Nyman (three downhill wins) and Bode Miller (one Super-G win) as Suslong and American winners.

“It’s a magical place for us and I’m really excited about Bryce to continue the tradition,” Naiman said.

Bennett finished in perfect condition 0.14 seconds ahead of Austria’s Otmar Stredinger and 0.32 seconds ahead of Switzerland’s Niels Hintermann for his first career win.

“I felt fast,” Bennett said. “I was jumping off the jump.”

Bennett has never surpassed fourth place (twice in Valgardena and once in Bormio) and is now confident in his participation in the Beijing Olympics.

“It finally happened. It’s been a long time,” Bennett said. “It was a bit off the left fielder …. I didn’t expect this.”

Travis Gannon has won the podium at Beaver Creek, Colorado, and the entire US team has recently strengthened it. Ryan Cochrane-Seagle After breaking his head last season, he regained speed. In addition, Naiman recovered from his injury at the age of 39.

“We have a good team. We can do that. Sometimes we doubt ourselves,” Bennett said. “This sport is difficult. Often it’s almost disappointing, so it overcomes them, keeps missing, and you spend such a day.”

Nyman talked about how he first learned the secrets of Suslong from Daron Larubus and Miller.

“It’s just bleeding year after year,” Nyman said. “We continue to build each other. The cool thing is that men learn from older men and continue to strengthen them.”

For a pre-race meal on Friday night, Babs made a local pasta dish, Spätzle, followed by chicken, potatoes and cauliflower. The desserts were lava cake and tiramisu.

“Delicious Olebab food,” said Naiman.

It was a special time for Bennett, who was recently engaged and will get married next summer.

Sitting in the leader’s chair, Bennett recalled his parents to his hometown of Lake Tahoe, California, and soon became a bride in Missouri.

His fiancé was asleep.

“She missed it. I woke her up,” Bennett said. “She was like,’Are you kidding?’. It’s like,’Look at the timing of the concert.’ Like me, she was speechless. “

It was also a flag day for American women. Breezy Johnson finished second on the downhill slope of Val d’Isere in France, behind Olympic champion Sophia Goggia.

He was the 10th starter, and almost all of his pre-race favorites were still on the skis, but Bennett produced a very solid run that soon turned out to be special. .. He celebrated wildly in the finish area, repeatedly pumping his fists and poles and screaming.

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

Bennett and Naiman share the same ski technician, Leo Mussi— A person from the Dolomites. Mussi also worked for the Italian racer Christian Gedina, who shares a record of four downhill victories in Austria’s great Franz Klammer and Valgardena.

“I knew skiing would be faster,” Bennett said. “When I’m not good at skiing right now, Leo is working so hard that I feel very sick. He’s my second dad. Steve, Leo, myself, we have a good relationship. I am. “

At the next starter, Bennett was barely sitting. Alexander Omot KirdeThe Norwegians, who won three consecutive victories in Valgardena, were faster than the Americans at each of the first four checkpoints.

Kirde was almost a second ahead of Bennett’s entry into the terrain-filled Sheathrat section, but he was so fast that he lost control and went offline. Kirde barely avoided the crash, but couldn’t recover in time to clear the next gate.

Locally popular Italian Dominik Paris finished in 4th place, while Switzerland’s outstanding Beatfoits were in 5th place. Paris and Foods were also faster than Bennett on most of the course, but couldn’t compete with skiers in Siathrat, Tahoe City, California.

Bennett was a BMX racer when he was a kid. His bike background and long legs help absorb the terrain of Sheathrat, which is full of small rolls and bumps.

“My life was about who could hit the biggest cliffs and jump off stupid things. That’s natural for me — big jumps and air,” Bennett said.

“But what I feel is BMX racing … it’s the feeling that you can manipulate and use the terrain. Where people don’t think you can get speed, it gives me speed. increase.”

By Andrew Dampf

Associated Press