GIRDWOOD, Alaska March 21, 2004 (USST) - World Cup rookie Jimmy Cochran (Keene, NH), with his dad, grandmother and all of his "Skiing Cochran" aunts on hand (and two ski racing cousins competing), took the first-run lead Sunday in slalom at the Chevrolet U.S. Alpine Championships and made it stand up for the gold medal, his first U.S. title. Downhill champion Bryon Friedman (Park City, UT) collected the combined title.
Cochran, who took leave from the University of Vermont to join the U.S. C Team this season, had a two-run time of 1:31.91 at Alyeska Resort. It's the first national title by an athlete from the celebrated Clan Cochran since Lindy won the GS crown in 1976.
Jesse Marshall (Pittsfield, VT), bronze medalist a year ago, took the slalom silver medal in 1:32.51 and the bronze went to Chip Knight (Stowe, VT) with a time of 1:32.89. Defending champion Bode Miller (Franconia, NH) missed a gate on his first run and hiked to get back onto the course, but finished 54th.
Friedman, the surprise downhill winner, was 11th in the slalom (1:35.50) to clinch the combined title, his second U.S. championship in 48 hours. Jake Zamansky (Aspen, CO), eighth in downhill (1:42.09, 3:13 back) and fifth in SL, took the silver medal in combined.
Family affair for Clan Cochran
Cochran, whose grandfather Mickie was U.S. head coach in 1974 and whose father and three aunts were Olympians (and whose grandmother Ginny, Mickie's widow, was presented a U.S. Ski Team fleece in a brief, special ceremony), smiled about the huge family delegation on hand. They were at Alyeska as part of the 10th Chevrolet Return of the Champions, which brings Olympic and World Championships medalist each season.
"They weren't putting any pressure on me," Cochran said. "It's fun skiing with them. It's kind of like a family vacation. And to win, it's unbelievable," he said. "I think it's gonna take all summer for this to set in. It's exciting."
Cochran's father Bob won nine U.S. championships during his years with the U.S. Ski Team in the late Sixties and into the mid-Seventies. His aunt Barbara Ann was the 1972 Olympic slalom champion, silver medalist in slalom at the 1970 World Championships; Aunt Marilyn was the first American to win a World Cup title (1969 - giant slalom) and was combined bronze medalist at the 1970 Worlds; Aunt Lindy was a 1976 Olympian. In addition, Marilyn's son Roger, the 2002 NCAA slalom champion for Dartmouth, finished sixth and Lindy's daughter Jessica Kelley, another U.S. C Team racer, a former Nor Am GS champion who scored her first World Cup points this winter, was sixth in the women's slalom.
His tactic during the slalom, which was run in shadow in the morning and under another blue sky - but with temperatures around 20 degrees in the afternoon, was simple, Cochran said. "The main thing was looking ahead.
"The second run was a lot of rhythm changes, a lot of combinations," he said. When you're skiing 30th (under the flip-30 format for the final run), the course is often rutted, he said. "It's easy to get late after 30 people have gone. My main thing was to look ahead, stay over the skis...
"It was sort of a relief," he said with a smile, with Miller back in the pack and rising junior star Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) failing to finish his first run. He raced with Ligety, World Junior Championships slalom silver medalist, in Europe this winter and feels the Park City teen is one of the fastest gate-runners in the world.
Cochran: Ski Team opportunities are the difference
He was asked about the difference between college racing (Cochran was second in slalom at the 2003 NCAA championships, third in GS wile at UVM) and the U.S. Ski Team. "The biggest difference is the opportunities you have on the Ski Team. For me, this year has been unbelievable - racing in Europe, training all summer, all fall...the equipment is unbelievable, you get treated so well. In college," Cochran said, "you're always budgeting your time - school, classes, finals...and social, too. That's the biggest thing.
"I've probably skied twice as much as I did last year, certainly a lot of racing. You can't not get better when you put that much time in, have that much coaching."
At the same time, he defended collegians, calling them "awesome athletes - they're hard working, but the bottom line is you don't get the same opportunities we get skiing every day..."
Friedman said, "I was hoping I'd get two discipline titles, but this is fine. I'm very happy. I'm psyched." He was cautious, he said, to make certain he finished his second run. "Once Bode went out, I knew I was in good shape and I want to make sure I finished."
Friedman also praised Cochran, a Ski Team newcomer, "because he's a good guy. He's obviously a talent but he's a hard worker. He loves skiing and he works hard, which is good."