Squaw Valley skier looks to tough Austrian course to improve
KITZBUEHEL, Austria – U.S. downhill skier Travis Ganong believes his first run on one of the World Cup’s most demanding courses will help him become a better racer.
The 22-year-old from Squaw Valley, Calif., is the youngest member of the American speed team, which will take on the famous Streif course. After one training session was canceled because of rain and fog, Ganong hopes to make his debut on the course in Thursday’s final practice.
“The excitement that comes from being scared actually helps you perform, it helps you to elevate to the next level,” Ganong said Wednesday. “I’ve got to learn to embrace that nervousness and use it to execute my plan.”
The U.S. ski team remembers the Streif course for the horrifying crash by Scott Macartney in 2008.
On his 30th birthday, Macartney lost his balance on the final jump, slammed his head on the iced slope, lost his helmet and sled unconscious over the finish line. He was in an induced coma for several days, but ultimately returned to World Cup ski racing the next season.
“We had our team meeting in the finish area last night and we talked about it,” Ganong said. “Scott came back and raced again. He has still a big influence on our team.”
Ganong said the accident has not scared him away from downhill racing.
“You can’t neglect (the danger),” he said. “That nervousness is always in the back of your mind. But when you’re scared, that’s where accidents happen. You have to be confident, stick to your plan and charge.”
Speed racers from the U.S. team generally regard the Streif as the ultimate test.
“In my career, this is where I will go from a rookie to establish myself more,” Ganong said. “I will be building on this for the next season and the following years.”
Ganong, whose older sister Megan is on the women’s team, is in his first full season on the World Cup circuit after placing second in the North American Cup downhill standings last year.
He’s raced almost all the famous downhill courses – Lake Louise, Val Gardena, Bormio, Wengen – and his best result came in December in Bormio, Italy, where he placed 20th.
The daunting Kitzbuehel event is next. His goal is a top-30 finish.
“For me, every time I can ski down these hills, it helps so much,” Ganong said. “So far, I loved them all. I’ve always been a bit nervous before, but afterward I wanted to go back and do them again.”