Bennett, Cochran-Siegle & Co.: The Americans sound the attack
Alongside top favorite Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, the athletes from the US speed team in Val Gardena/Gröden are always among the hottest contenders for a victory in the downhill classic. The U.S. boys feel almost at home on the Saslong and the course plays to their strengths at the foot of the Sassolungo/Langkofel like no other World Cup course.
Racers from nine different countries have claimed victoryIn the 58 downhill races held in Val Gardena/Gröden so far. While the skiing nation of Austria is leading this ranking with 18 triumphs, the U.S. downhill record on the Saslong is also impressive: speed aces from the U.S. have been unbeatable a total of four times, with all four successes coming in the recent past - that is, in 2006 or later. Last year, Bryce Bennett, a racer from the United States, also climbed to the top of the podium.
Bennett took advantage of the absence of exceptional Kilde in 2021 and raced to his first (and so far only) World Cup victory with an impressive ride. This season, however, the 30-year-old is still searching for his top form - after a disappointing 45th place in Lake Louise, he collected his first points in Beaver Creek in 26th place. But it is quite possible that Bennett's might find his success on the course of the race week in Val Gardena/Gröden: In his last six downhill starts on the Saslong, the cheerful chap from overseas has never finished worse than eleventh, and four times Bennett has even placed among the top six.
Cochran-Siegle and Ganong are in the running
Ryan Cochran-Siegle is another athlete on the U.S. team who might have a say in the battle for the top positions. Cochran-Siegle raced his great moment in Val Gardena/Gröden two years ago when he climbed onto a World Cup podium for the first time with second place in the downhill. This second place on the Saslong gave the then 28-year-old such a boost that he even went one better ten days later in Bormio, clawing his way to his first World Cup triumph in the super-G. The ninth and seventh positions in the first two downhill races of the current season confirm that Cochran-Siegle is a force to be reckoned with this year.
Travis Ganong can also be expected to do well in Val Gardena/Gröden. The experienced skier has already achieved three top ten results in the downhill classic - this year another top result might follow. "My teammates and I always have great fun here in South Tyrol. We Americans grew up on hills like these with lots of jumps, so we feel right at home on the Saslong," Ganong summed it up after Tuesday's training session, which he finished tenth.
Nyman hopes for a start
The most successful U.S. American in Val Gardena/Gröden is Steven Nyman, who was the downhill winner in 2006, 2012 and 2014. The 40-year-old „oldie“ is still active and has also traveled to South Tyrol this year, but due to a hand injury he does not yet know whether he will be able to compete in the races. "I definitely want to compete for the downhill, as I simply love the course and want to experience this amazing race once again. But now it's a matter of waiting and seeing how the pain develops," Nyman said after the training session, which he tackled cautiously.
Even if Nyman doesn't compete, one thing is certain: a U.S. athlete is almost always among the top skiers on the Saslong.