SELVA DI VAL GARDENA, Italy – With the Pyeongchang Olympics less than two months away, a pair of young skiers who consider themselves “brothers” shook up the struggling U.S. downhill team on Saturday.
Jared Goldberg finished a career-best ninth in the Saslong Classic downhill and teammate Bryce Bennett wasn’t far behind in 11th.
Goldberg recorded the speed squad’s first top-10 result of the season after six super-G and downhill races.
Team captain Steven Nyman, a three-time winner on the Saslong who is working his way back from knee surgery, couldn’t have been prouder.
“They’re establishing themselves in the top 30 and hopefully into the top 20 and keep chipping away and push for a podium,” Nyman said after tying with teammate Wiley Maple for 41st in his season debut. “This will be a big confidence boost for those guys and that’s what we need on the American Downhiller crew right now and for them in the future.”
Earlier this week, Goldberg sought out advice from Nyman.
The next day, Goldberg led the opening training run.
“I’m super proud of Jared,” Nyman said. “He was super inquisitive about the course to me this year and I just pointed a lot of stuff out and told him, ‘This is how you got to do it. This is where you go and you have the abilities and just be confident and throw yourself over that terrain with confidence and vigor and you’ll take a lot more speed than all the other guys, because most people are hesitant.’”
A training agreement with the Norwegian team also helped. It meant that Goldberg got to hear a course report from race winner Aksel Lund Svindal.
“He’s just a really calm person to hear on the radio,” Goldberg said. “He knows what he’s talking about.”
At 26, Goldberg has always shown promise inbetween an Achilles’ heel injury and some back problems — like when he had the third-fastest run in the downhill portion of the combined at the 2015 world championships in Beaver Creek, Colorado.
He grew more confident when he won a FIS race ahead of a world-class field at Copper Mountain, Colorado, last month.
“So I knew that my speed was there. It was just a matter of staying calm and staying loose over the terrain,” Goldberg said. “The nice thing is now that I’m running in the top 30 I have a cleaner course and I can get away with pulling off a more difficult line.”
Goldberg often rooms with Bennett.
“He’s like my brother. We’re both only children,” Goldberg said. “We’re both very calm people and we’re out here for the right reasons — to have fun. We don’t take it too seriously ever. We just ski, that’s it. So we’re on the same wavelength of chillness.”
Goldberg was born in Boston and learned to ski in Killington, Vermont, before his family moved to Utah when he was four. Bennett is part of a large contingent of U.S. skiers from Squaw Valley, California.
At 6-foot-7 (2 meters), Bennett has the long limbs to absorb the myriad bumps and terrain on the technical ciaslat section of the Saslong. But he needs to improve his technique on the flats.
“It’s tough for me to stay aerodynamic through that gliding terrain,” Bennett said. “That’s a piece of the puzzle I’m going to have to figure out for the future.
“But I’m psyched for Goldie, because we’re best friends, teammates. I got the chills,” Bennett added. “Jared’s a goofy dude. Ask him to do impersonations for you. His (President Donald) Trump one right now is unbelievable.”
Meanwhile, it was a tough day for the squad’s veterans as Travis Ganong, a two-time winner on the circuit, finished 39th, and two-time Olympic super-G medalist Andrew Weibrecht sat out with a bothersome knee.
Up next, Ted Ligety will be expected to lead the team on Sunday and Monday in a giant slalom and parallel GS in Alta Badia, where he has won twice.