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For the Skiing Cochrans of Richmond, Vt., another Olympic medal

Ryan Cochran-Siegle shows off the super-G silver medal that will join the family collection. (Jean-Christophe Bott/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

BEIJING — In the winter of 1961, the Cochrans of Richmond, Vt., Mickey and Ginny, carved a small ski area out of the farm property they owned along the Winooski River, fashioning a simple tow rope to pull their kids up the hill. They were a ski family, the Skiing Cochrans, and all four of Mickey and Ginny’s kids would go on to become U.S. Olympians, with the second daughter, Barbara, winning the gold medal in slalom in the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan.

Eventually, another generation of Skiing Cochrans populated Cochran’s Ski Area, which grew to include four trails with a total of 350 feet of vertical drop and three lifts. Of these youngsters, Barbara’s son Ryan was perhaps the most precocious, closing each day of skiing with one breakneck “bomb run” down the biggest hill. One such run ended with a window shattered at the front of the lodge, and little Ryan sprawled out half-inside and half-outside the window frame.

Another such run, with similar hair-on-fire intrepidity but perhaps a bit more control, delivered Ryan Cochran-Siegle, now 29, to the bottom of the Yanqing National Alpine Skiing Centre on Tuesday as the second-fastest in the field of 47 in the men’s super-G at the Beijing Winter Olympics. His silver medal came 50 years, nearly to the day, after his mother’s triumph in Sapporo.

“It was crazy. Obviously, you dream of these moments. You see it in your mind,” Cochran-Siegle said after securing Team USA’s first medal in Alpine at these Olympics. “At times you have to put it away. You have to just focus on the skiing, and that was what I was doing today.”

Of the folks back home at Cochran’s Ski Area, he said: “I hope everyone’s proud. I always hold where I come from on my shoulders. There’s so many kids who were like I was. … I just hope I can with this race today give those kids the inspiration to follow their dreams like I was able to do.”

The gold medalist, Austria’s Matthias Mayer, is himself the son of an Olympic medalist: His father, Helmut, won silver in the super-G in Calgary in 1988. Cochran-Siegle’s runner-up time of 1:19.98 was just four-hundredths of a second behind Mayer’s 1:19.94. Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde took bronze with a time of 1:20.36.

Cochran-Siegle’s medal was a much-welcomed development for the U.S. Alpine team, which one day earlier endured one of the most excruciating and disquieting competition days in recent memory — one in which Nina O’Brien suffered a gruesome leg injury, later diagnosed as a compound fracture, in the second run of the women’s giant slalom; superstar Mikaela Shiffrin, a three-time Olympic medalist, fell in the first run of the same event and failed to finish; and none of three U.S. men in the downhill finished in the top 10.

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In one sense, Cochran-Siegle was an unlikely candidate to get Team USA off the Alpine schneid this week. In nine years on the World Cup circuit, he had made the podium just twice. The second of those, a gold medal in the downhill at Bormio, Italy, came just a month before he crashed in a race in Kitzbühel, Austria, suffering a C7 transverse cervical fracture — a “minor broken neck,” as he described it — that required a helicopter to airlift him from the mountain and ended what had been the best season of his career. After fusion surgery, he was on skis again by May 2021, back in training by August and racing on the World Cup circuit in October.

In PyeongChang in 2018, Cochran-Siegle had become the sixth member of his family to ski in the Olympics — joining his mother and her three siblings, plus cousin Jimmy Cochran, who competed for Team USA in Turin in 2006 and Vancouver in 2010 — but in four starts posted a best finish of 11th in the giant slalom.

Over the years, rather than treating his mother’s Olympic gold as an impossible standard to try to live up to, he treated it as proof that anything was possible. “Using it positively, following her footsteps and trusting my own path,” he said. “I’m sure for other people it could be pressure-inducing, but for me it was motivating.”

When Cochran-Siegle reached the finish line in the super-G on Tuesday, having put up what was then the second-fastest time of the day, he looked into a television camera and blurted the first thing that came to mind: “What’s up, Vermont? Hope that [time] holds!”

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As it turned out, the time held up, and within minutes of the final run, Cochran-Siegle was on a FaceTime session with his family back in Vermont, his mother telling him, “I’m proud of you.”

“I’m just so proud,” Barbara Cochran told NBC on a video linkup from Cochran’s Ski Area after the race. “I knew he was capable. I didn’t know if it would happen, but I knew he was capable.”

Now 71, Barbara Cochran remains the director of the “Ski Tots” program at Cochran’s and sometimes helps out at the snack bar, though she is hoping to retire by the end of the year. They’re open for skiing 3-6 p.m. this Wednesday and Thursday ($10 for adults), 3-8 p.m. Friday ($5) and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on weekends ($19). Check ahead, because cold temperatures sometimes force them to close.

They’re good folks, and if you can’t afford the $295 season pass, it says right on the website to email them and they’ll work something out. But bear in mind: If your last bomb run of the day lands you in the front window, there’s a decent chance they’re going to expect you to pay for it — unless, of course, you’re family.

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