SÖLDEN, Austria (AP) — American skier Ryan Cochran-Siegle is coming off his career best World Cup season, earning more points than ever before in both downhill and super-G, and topping it off with an Olympic silver medal.
Now he plans to start scoring points in giant slalom again, too.
His first chance to do so is the season-opening race Sunday on the Rettenbach glacier in Austria.
“I have less pressure for myself this year, for Sölden especially,” said the 30-year-old Vermont native, son of 1972 Olympic slalom champion Barbara Cochran.
“My best result here was 11th (in 2019), but in the prep going into that I had quite a bit more GS, so maybe I am not shooting that high.”
When Cochran-Siegle raced here one year ago, he had no clue what the season was going to bring.
The American had not raced since fracturing his neck in a horrifying downhill crash in Kitzbühel nine months earlier. And he was still trying to get used to different skis after switching to equipment supplier Head.
Even though Cochran-Siegle didn’t qualify for the second run of that GS in Sölden, it marked the start to the most successful of his 11 seasons on the World Cup.
He racked up five top-10 finishes in downhill and four in super-G, gathering 385 World Cup points — 10 more than his previous best tally from the 2019-20 season.
“I definitely had a really strong speed season,” Cochran-Siegle said. “That was my focus going in, trying to adjust to new equipment, working with my serviceman Heinz (Hämmerle, former long-term ski technician of Lindsey Vonn).”
Cochran-Siegle peaked at the right moment and got his sole podium finish at the Olympics, finishing the super-G race four-hundredths of a second behind gold medalist Matthias Mayer of Austria.
“A special moment for me. Going to the Olympics is obviously an achievement, but you want to go there and compete. I was able to prove myself that I can compete,” Cochran-Siegle said.
His medal was the only one in Alpine skiing for the American team in Beijing.
“Winning an Olympic medal is a huge feat, I’m incredibly proud of that,” he said. “As an American it’s kind of unfortunate that I was the only one who won a medal. Our team had a lot more potential.”
Still, one thing was missing for Cochran-Siegle last season.
“I just recognized I was not skiing as well in GS as I had in years prior. I am still trying to get that skiing back up there,” he said.
Downhill and super-G have always been Cochran-Siegle’s core events since entering the World Cup in 2011. He added giant slalom to his schedule five years later – and scored a career best 10th in Kranjska Gora in 2018.
Last season, Cochran-Siegle dropped the GS after just three races to focus on his strongest events. Now he wants to get back to where he was before his injury.
He has to come from far though, as his current GS ranking means he starts the season with bib 45.
While his pre-season training was mainly about downhill and super-G, he also had “a really good prep” in GS, according to the head tech coach of the U.S. ski team, Ian Garner.
“He focused pretty heavily on speed skiing. But we got a good block here and got some good GS in Portillo,” Garner said.
“Coming back from the injury and the switch to the new equipment, the focus was definitely on speed,” the coach added. “He can obviously win in speed events, and he can play in the GS again.”
Getting decent results in GS would help Cochran-Siegle to get closer to the 500-point total for a season, which would automatically improve his place in the starting order.
But he is planning to play it smart, and investing more time in GS should not affect his main events.
“I am prioritizing speed. I think that is where my best skiing is. If I can make GS work, too, I am more than happy, but I don’t want to stress it too much,” he said.
“You are trying to get as many points as you can throughout a season, but I am trying to be a little strategic with it, too.”
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