KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — There's at least one reason for the U.S. ski team to celebrate on Sunday night.
Though Bode Miller's eighth-place finish in the men's downhill wasn't the medal performance many expected, the breakout race of 25-year-old Travis Ganong certainly helped ease the blow. The Squaw Valley, Calif., native placed fifth with a time of 2.06.64, .31 seconds shy of the bronze-medal time of Norway's Kjetil Jansrud.
It was Ganong's best finish in a major international event in the downhill, besting his seventh-place mark in a World Cup event in Austria last month.
"My run was awesome," Ganong said. "I did basically what I wanted to do. I pushed hard. I pushed huge off the jumps and had a smile on my face when I finished."
The performance of Ganong, who is skiing in his first Olympics, drew praise from his veteran teammate.
"It's great," Miller said. "You can't be that surprised with it because he's been skiing great all year and he's one of those guys who has confidence in his ability. He'll go out and ski hard no matter what. He doesn't surprise me that he's in there. It's a shock to some people, but I train with him all the time so I know how good he is."
Ganong entered the Olympics ranked 18th in the World Cup standings in downhill and 36th overall. He'll get the opportunity to build on his debut showing when he returns to the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center to compete in the men's Super G competition next Sunday.
"I've been methodically building my career over the last four or five years in the World Cup and getting better and better each year and lowering my ranking and gaining more confidence," Ganong said. "Now I'm at a point where I know my skiing's good and I can be relaxed. That's a really fun place to be because then you're just having fun every race."