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For the Joy of Skiing: Ryan Cochran-Siegle Wins Super-G Silver

By Peggy Shinn | Feb. 08, 2022, 3:46 a.m. (ET)

Ryan Cochran-Siegle poses during the men's super-G medal ceremony at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 8, 2022 in Yanqing, China.

 

BEIJING — Fifty years ago, almost to the day, Barbara Ann Cochran won an Olympic gold medal in slalom. Her Rossignol Stratos and her race bib hang from the base lodge ceiling of Cochran’s Ski Area in Richmond, Vermont.

Now the ski area will have to make room for another pair of skis and bib. Cochran’s 29-year-old son, Ryan Cochran-Siegle, won an Olympic silver medal in men’s super-G at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.

Wearing bib #14 (the place that he finished in yesterday’s downhill), Cochran-Siegle laid down a near perfect run. He crossed the finish line, took off his skis, looked at the camera and said, “What’s up, Vermont. I hope that holds.”

It did.

Cochran-Siegle held on to second place with a time of 1:19.98, just 0.04 of a second behind winner Matthias Mayer, an Austrian who defended his 2018 Olympic super-G title. Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde in third won his first Olympic medal in 1:20.36. 

 

 


Aamodt Kilde was heavily favored to win multiple medals at these Winter Games. So when Cochran-Siegle saw that his time was almost a half-second faster than the Norwegian’s, he knew it was good.

“Part of me recognized that I was skiing well, and trusting that, and just fighting all the way to the finish,” he said after the race. “But yeah, it's definitely a special, special run.”

Back at the 1972 Sapporo Olympic Games, BA — as she is known by friends and family — was nervous between her two slalom runs (the tech events of slalom and giant slalom are based on two runs; the speed events, super-G and downhill, are just one run). 

Her father, family patriarch Mickey Cochran — who started Cochran’s Ski Area when he installed a rope tow and lights in the family’s backyard so his four kids could ski every day after school — said to his nervous daughter, “I thought you were the cool cucumber.”

Mom passed on the love to her son — not just about competing but about the joy of skiing and the pride in representing your country. Before Cochran-Siegle competed in the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, she wrote him a letter advising him to just enjoy the experience.

“I told him it’s not all about the results,” she told the Associated Press. “Sure, medals are really nice, but it’s not all about the results. Enjoy the time that you’re there and be proud of the fact that you’re representing the U.S., and just go out and do your best.”

Cochran-Siegle heeded her advice. 

“Happy, relieved, a little bit of proud,” he said when asked how he felt about winning an Olympic medal. “But just really appreciating that I'm here and able to accomplish my childhood dream on a day like today. It's a lot of really good and positive emotions.”

 

Ryan Cochran-siegle competes during the men's super-G finals at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 8, 2022 in Yanqing, China. 

 

A Chip Off the Old Block

Cochran-Siegle is a member of the “Skiing Cochrans” as they were dubbed by the press back in the 1960s and 1970s when his mom and her three siblings were ski racing at the highest level. Cochran-Siegle’s Aunt Marilyn won the world cup giant slalom title in 1969 and a world championship bronze medal a year later, Uncle Bobby won the combined on Kitzbuehel’s famed Hahnenkamm, and Aunt Lindy claimed a world cup podium in slalom. All four competed in an Olympic Winter Games.

The four siblings then had kids, and five of the cousins grew up to compete for the U.S. Ski Team and at the NCAA level. Jimmy Cochran (Bobby’s son) is a two-time Olympian (2006 and 2010), Roger Brown (Marilyn’s son) and Tim Kelley (Lindy’s son) are NCAA slalom champions, and Lindy’s kids — Jess, Tim, and Robby — all competed for the U.S. Ski Team and on the world cup tour (as did Brown). 

Now 29, Cochran-Siegle is the youngest of this second generation of “Skiing Cochrans.” The cousins are so close that they almost seem like siblings. They all learned to ski at Cochran’s, with their parents. While they were taught the fundamentals, they were more importantly taught to love skiing — the joy of sliding over snow in winter.

“I grew up in a cool atmosphere where being at the Olympics was attainable,” Cochran-Siegle said after the downhill yesterday. “Just seeing how many people in my family were able to be here, I was fortunate in that sense.”

Speed Racer

While the other Cochrans specialized in slalom and giant slalom (Cochran’s Ski Area has only a 350-foot vertical drop), Cochran-Siegle wanted to go straight and fast. He famously crashed into the base lodge’s plate-glass window when he was young. 

But the path to the Olympic podium has been rough. Skiing can be brutal, but also beautiful, he said. He had good results in his first world cup races a decade ago. Then he was beset by serious knee injuries, but he fought his way back each time.

At home in Vermont, he and his cousins built an outdoor gym at Cochran’s for off-season training — what they deemed the Field of Excellence, a play on the U.S. Ski Team’s Center of Excellence in Park City, Utah.

By 2016, he was finishing in the points in world cup races again. From there, he progressed, with more top 30, then top 15 finishes. By the 2018-2019 season, he was finishing regularly in the top 30.

Last year, he finally made the final leap onto the world cup podium, finishing second in a downhill and then winning a world cup super-G a year later. People started speculating that he might become the next Cochran to win an Olympic medal.

But in the Hahnenkamm downhill last January, he crashed near the bottom and went into the netting. Initially, he appeared to have survived the fall intact. But he had fractured a vertebra in his neck. He flew home to have surgery on February 9 — 364 days ago — and was back on skis in May.

Ryan Cochran-Siegle reacts following his run during the men's super-G at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 8, 2022 in Yanqing, China.

 

2022 Olympic Season

Cochran Siegle began this season at the Soelden World Cup giant slalom, finishing 31st, 0.01 of a second for earning a second run. In the season’s first downhill, he finished tenth. The injury was behind him, he said. But he still needed to work on his skiing.

In yesterday’s 2022 Olympic downhill, he finished 14th and seemed subdued afterward. He was too tentative, he said, and too passive on his run. He did not seem like a medal contender for the super-G the next day.

How would he have responded if someone had said, “You’ll be on the podium tomorrow”?

“I wouldn’t have believed them,” he said. “I would have just said I’ve got to focus on my skiing and that's what's important.”

He did just that and was happy that he had executed his run — “really pushing out of the start as hard as I could and just pushing the line a little bit with what I was comfortable with.”

When he crossed the finish line, he looked up and saw a “2” on the scoreboard.

“You dream of these moments,” he said. “You see it in your mind and at times you have to put it away because you have to just focus on the skiing. That was what I was doing today. But to come down and see that that I was in second …”

Although some athletes are frustrated with second place, Cochran-Siegle is proud of his accomplishment.

“What I really want to take away from today's run is that I'm a capable skier and that I can trust that and that when I'm skiing my best, I can go out and contend with the best,” he said.

Then he added, “I think this was the best second place that I'll ever get in my life.”

As for his skis hanging in the base lodge, Cochran-Siegle said not yet. 

“I'm sure we'll keep racing on them if they keep working like this,” he said. “Probably not yet.”

Other Team USA Skiers

Behind Cochran-Siegle, the U.S. skiers all finished in the top 20 of the men’s super-G. Travis Ganong came in tenth (1:21.37), River Radamus was 15th in his first Olympic Winter Games (1:21.63), and Bryce Bennett crossed the line in 17th (1:21.80).

Peggy Shinn

An award-winning freelance writer based in Vermont, Peggy Shinn is in Beijing covering her seventh Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since its inception in 2008.

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