Pop quiz: How many Vermont skiers/riders won medals in Beijing?
You know about Ryan Cochran-Siegle’s (shown above) astounding performance which earned him Olympic silver in the men’s Super G. Cochran-Siegle has been battling his way back from injuries for much of his World Cup career and this year was no exception. Last spring, when we caught up with him at the sugarhouse right next to Cochran’s, he was wearing a neck brace and still not skiing. “It’s the first season I’ve actually been here for sugaring,” he said.
That’s why his near-victory —he was just 0.04 seconds off Matthias Mayer’s winning time – was all the sweeter. And it came 50 years after his mother, Barbara Ann Cochran, won gold in slalom in Sapporo. His aunt, Marilyn, an Olympic contender too, won a bronze in combined at the World Championships. His uncle Bobby, also an Olympian, was the first American to win the World Cup combined in Kitzbuhel, Austria. His aunt Lindy? Also an Olympian. His cousin Jimmy was an Olympian, too, who finished 12th in slalom. And that’s just a few of the family highlights. For more, see: The Cochran Dynasty: A Family Of Olympians
So, it was no surprise that Governor Phil Scott was part of the welcoming party that met Ryan Cochran-Siegle at the Burlington Airport. He was following a precedent Gov. Deane Davis had set meeting Barbara Ann at the same airport after her win, 50 years ago.
But with the media attention on Cochran-Siegle and on Burke Mountain Academy grad Mikaela Shiffrin’s travails, many people missed another success story. If you were just looking at combined finishes, the most consistent performance on the U.S. Alpine Ski Team, of any man or woman, went to Paula Moltzan. The University of Vermont junior (taking time off now to compete) finished 8th in slalom and 12th in the giant slalom and is slated to compete in the team event tonight. It’s the first time the event will be held in the Olympics and competing for the U.S. are Paula Moltzan, AJ Hurt, Tommy Ford, River Radamus and Luke Winters.
But that wasn’t the only medal are bringing home. Megan Nick who grew up in Shelburne, won a bronze in aerials. Nick, one of Vermont Sports’ 10 Athletes of the Year, was a gymnast who wrote about aerial skiing for her high school senior project and then was recruited to the U.S. Development team.
“I was just trying to be extremely present and grateful that I was even there,” Nick told reporters after her win. “No expectations — only wanting to compete the way that I’ve been training,” she said after winning the bronze.
Jessie Diggins, who lives and trains in Stratton, Vt. all summer, never finished any event she entered out of the top 10 and earned a bronze in the freestyle spring finals, now her second Olympic medal after winning a gold in PyeongChang.
And Lindsay Jacobellis, 36, who grew up skiing in southern Vermont and attended Stratton Mountain School, finally earned her gold medal in border cross. And then turned around and with teammate Nick Baumgartner, 40, won the team bordercross event as well.
For a state that has fewer than 650,000 residents, to bring home four Olympic medals isn’t too shabby.
But just as exciting was to see top performances by some of the younger athletes. Deedra Irwin, a member of the Vermont National Guard, put in the best performance ever by an American biathlete, finishing sevents in the women’s 15-kilometer individual event. Irwin was one of 6 Vermont-based athletes on the U.S. Biathlon Team and trains at Fort Ethan Allen in Jericho.
Ben Ogden, 22., one of a clan of Nordic-skiing Ogdens of Landgrove, Vt. and a student at University of Vermont, placed 12th in the men’s individual sprint —the best Olympic performance any American male has put in in that event. He was also called up to join the relay team which placed ninth.
Killington’s Hannah Soar finished seventh in moguls, just behind her former Killington Mountain School buddy, Olivia Giaccio. Stratton’s Mac Forehand, a former overall World Cup winner, 20, placed 11th in freeskiing big air and 20th in slopestyle.
In four years, we bet, they will be the ones the governor meets at the airport.
For now, to have four Vermont athletes bring home 5 medals for a state with just 643,000 in population is pretty darn good.