YANQING, China (Reuters) – Few athletes shoulder the weight of history as easily as American skier Ryan Cochran-Siegle.
The latest member of the United States’ most famous skiing family, the ‘Skiing Cochrans’, arrived at the Beijing Olympics a battled-scarred, rank outsider and ended Tuesday’s super-G race with the silver medal.
Cochran-Siegle’s mother, Barbara Ann Cochran, won slalom gold at the Sapporo Games in 1972 and taught him how to ski at the age of two. His family includes no less than 10 U.S. national ski team athletes and six Olympians.
“I’m sure there’s other people that, depending on their situations, it could be pressure producing, but I think for me it was just a little bit motivating,” Cochran-Siegle said after winning the first U.S. alpine skiing medal at these Games.
“I approach the fact that (my mum) has Olympic success and such a storied career like that it’s possible for anyone. Using it positively, following in her footsteps, and trusting my own path has allowed me to be here.”
His family back home have made sure he feels their love and support from afar, even if he admitted he had not been that good at keeping in touch from China.
“(My mum) sent me a text, but I didn’t talk to her. I haven’t been very good about talking to my family back home. We talked after the downhill got cancelled (on Sunday),” the 29-year-old added.
“Every time I hear from them they talk about how proud they are and that regardless of the results they’re proud of who I am and what I’ve been able to do.”
Cochran-Siegle has been dogged by multiple serious injuries over his career, the most recent being a broken neck sustained after a crash in Kitzbuehel in January 2021.
“Today’s the 8th, I had neck surgery on Feb. 9 last year. So it’s full circle a little bit,” he said. “It’s a special moment. It’s kind of hard to describe.
“I (feel) happy, relieved. I’m a little bit proud, but (I’m) just really appreciating that I’m here and able to accomplish my childhood dream on a day like today.”
Coming second at the Olympics can be hard to take for an athlete, but Cochran-Siegle said he had no regrets, despite finishing just four hundredths of a second behind winner Matthias Mayer of Austria.
“I think this was the best second place that I’ll ever get in my life,” he said.
“Whether it’s four hundredths or I was 15th… what I really want to take away from today is that I’m a capable skier and that I can trust that when I’m skiing my best I can go out and contend with the rest.”
(Reporting by Simon Jennings; Editing by Ken Ferris)