Bryce Bennet celebrates after winning the men's downhill event at the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup on Dec. 18, 2021 in Val Gardena, Italy.
It’s been nearly five years since a U.S. man won a world cup downhill event. It’s been an even longer wait for Olympian Bryce Bennett, who had made 106 winless world cup starts going into Saturday’s race at Val Gardena-Groeden, Italy, where he put an end to both streaks.
Bennett scored the first win and first podium finish of any kind in his world cup career with a run of 2:02.42. He was .14 seconds up on second place Otmar Streidinger of Austria and .32 seconds faster than third-place Niels Hintermann of Switzerland. It was the first podium of the season for all three skiers.
“I don’t really know what happened today,” Bennett said to the FIS afterward. “I had a good plan last night after video, and I tried my best to commit to that. I was telling myself just commit to your plan, no backing down. And so when I crossed the line and I saw the green light, I knew it was a good run.”
The 10th skier to go, Bennett had to wait out the rest of the field and slowly watch his podium hopes develop. That gave him time to call his fiancée Kelley, whose alarm did not go off and had missed Bennett’s run. Fortunately, she was awake in time to see him officially clinch his landmark victory.
Travis Ganong, who finished 15th in Saturday’s race, was the last American man to win a downhill race, doing so on Jan. 17, 2017 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Olympian Ryan Cochran-Siegle, who also raced Saturday, was the only U.S. man to make a downhill podium in the ensuing years. Bennett has been on the world cup circuit since 2014 and had a previous career high of fourth, done three times.
The 29-year-old from Tahoe City, California, has had surprising results before at Val Gardena. He earned his first career world cup top 10 in December 2015 after starting in 57th place and finishing in sixth. He had a career-best season in 2019, recording his best finishes in every classic downhill event. Bennett competed in alpine combined and downhill at his Olympic debut in PyeongChang in 2018, finishing 16th in both races.