American skier Cochran-Siegle’s setback fuels Olympic motivation | Sports News

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By ERIC WILLEMSEN, Associated Press

SÖLDEN, Austria (AP) – After recovering from a broken neck, Ryan Cochran-Siegle finally made his return to the Ski World Cup after 275 days, although his appearance was cut short by just one downhill on Sunday .

The American missed qualifying for the second stage of the season’s opening giant slalom by a hundredth of a second.

Getting beaten by the smallest margin possible usually means heartbreak for any skier, but Cochran-Siegle was quick to draw the positives from failure.

At least he was back in the running – in a season that includes the Beijing Olympics in February.

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“I thought I was skiing well, I was just hanging on too much,” said the 29-year-old Vermont native, son of 1972 Olympic slalom champion Barbara Cochran.

“The conditions, as well as the strength of all the other skiers here, are really competitive, and I just needed to bring more to this trail.

Cochran-Siegle was enjoying his breakthrough season last year, including his first Super-G World Cup victory in Italy at the end of December, until a horrific crash on one of the downhill courses. most dangerous in the world changes everything.

He lost his balance when he leaned back during a jump on the Streif in Kitzbühel, skidded and pushed his way through the first row of safety nets. He had to be flown off the hill by helicopter.

Days later, Cochran-Siegle returned to the United States with a neck brace, still hoping he could be back this season.

However, the fracture of the seventh cervical vertebra in the spine would not heal on its own.

“I merged the C6 and C7 in early February. The operation went really well and then it was like resting, not doing much for two months, ”Cochran-Siegle said.

Once the merger was solid, he returned to skiing in May.

“Then I had a full training block this summer at (Swiss resorts) Zermatt and Saas-Fee, it was great,” he said.

With the downhill and super-G sprint disciplines as its strongest events, a return to one of the toughest giant slalom hills on the circuit was always going to be a challenge.

“Where I am, I’m fine. There is certainly work to be done and I recognize it. Today is a good recording, but it’s not where I want to be, ”Cochran-Siegle said.

The injury forced him to leave the highlight of the season: the world championships in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, last February.

This makes him even more eager to make it to the Beijing Olympics in just over three months.

“Setbacks are good motivators, trying to come back stronger than before,” Cochran-Siegle said. “Knowing that I was skiing at this ability and confident that I would go back, that’s where I focus. I want to come back to this kind of limitless skiing and have fun with it too.

Although the neck injury no longer bothers him physically, it is still in the back of his mind.

“The only brake is more mental, it’s not about injury, it’s about wanting to perform well,” said Cochran-Siegle. “I have to approach this in order to overcome this, trusting the healing. I am in good health and I know it.

More AP Skiing: https://apnews.com/hub/skiing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Eric Willemsen on Twitter: https://twitter.com/eWilmedia

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