Fifty years after his mother first tasted Olympic glory, American skier Ryan Cochran-Siegle has added to his family’s extraordinary skiing legacy.
The Vermont native will be coming home from Beijing with a silver medal, one that he won in Tuesday’s super-G, finishing only .04 seconds behind gold medal winner Matthias Mayer of Austria.
Cochran-Siegle’s mother, Barbara Ann, won gold in the slalom at the 1972 Sapporo Games.
In 1961, Barbara’s parents, Mickey and Ginny Cochran, started a small ski area, and the “Skiing Cochrans” were born. Barbara’s brother, Bob, finished eighth in the downhill at those same Olympics in 1972, while sister Marilyn finished 20th in giant slalom. Lindy Cochran finished sixth in slalom at the 1976 Olympics in Innsbruck. A generation later, Jimmy Cochran competed in the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy, and the 2010 Games in Vancouver.
Twenty-nine-year-old Ryan, a member of the U.S. Ski Team since 2011, had already has been to one Olympics (the highest he finished was 11th in giant slalom in 2018 at PyeongChang), and started the Beijing Games with a disappointing 14th place finish in the downhill.
“When I’m skiing my best, I can go out and contend with the rest,” Cochran-Siegle told reporters. “Some people say how second place is hard. This was the best second place that I’ll ever get in my life.”
The fact that he was able to be in the Olympics at all didn’t seem so concrete only 13 months ago, when Ryan slipped and crashed during a run in Kitzbuehel, Austria. He wound up fracturing his neck, putting an end to what had been a breakout season.
He was back on skis in May
“The rehab was probably more stressful for me,” Barbara told New England Ski Journal last month. “He’s so diligent when it comes to rehab that he follows it religiously. But I was thinking, it’s a broken neck, you know? That can’t be not serious.”
The month before, Ryan had earned his first-ever World Cup victory, winning the super-G in Bormio, Italy, becoming the first American male to win a World Cup super-G since Bode Miller in 2006. He won the race by nearly eight-tenths of a second, the largest winning margin in a men’s World Cup super-G since 2016. Earlier that same month, he also had finished second in a downhill race in Val Gardena-Groeden, Italy, which had been his best career finish to that date. He finished in 2:01.67, only .22 of a second behind Aleksander Aamodt Kilde. Previously, he had never finished higher than fifth in any World Cup race.
With his second-place finish in Val Gardena-Groeden, Ryan had become the first American man to grab a podium since 2017, when Travis Ganong won a downhill in Germany. According to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team, that was the longest drought in U.S. history.
Now, like his mother, Cochran-Siegle is an Olympic medalist.
“I totally believed in him,” Barbara said during an interview on NBC. “I knew that he was capable of doing it. But you never know if on a particular day that is going to happen. I didn’t know it would happen, but I knew he was capable.”