WENGEN, Switzerland — Downhill racer Jared Goldberg pressed his claim Saturday for a spot on the four-man United States team in the glamor event of the Sochi Olympics.
A career-best 12th-place finish in World Cup races, from start number 40 in a shortened Lauberhorn downhill, lifted the 22-year-old Goldberg chances and put pressure on more experienced teammates with one qualifying race remaining.
“Jared did a great job,” U.S. men’s head coach Sasha Rearick said. “Marco Sullivan has been consistent in there but having a young guy step up and say, `Hey guys, wake up. I’m here,’ is exactly what I wanted.”
“I couldn’t be happier,” Rearick said.
Only Bode Miller, who finished fifth Saturday, and Travis Ganong, who was 28th, have secured selection for the Feb. 9 Olympic race by already finishing top-10 in a World Cup downhill this season.
U.S. team coaches have discretion to award places next weekend after the classic Austrian downhill at Kitzbuehel.
“They are fighting it out and Jared did what he needed to do,” Rearick said.
Goldberg also impressed at Wengen in the downhill portion of Friday’s super-combined. He was 10th fastest in the speed event which followed a morning slalom to place 20th overall.
That performance might have secured the resident of Holladay, Utah, a place in the Olympic super-combined race on Feb. 14, alongside defending champion Miller. Downhill is also in his sights.
“I have always known I could do it,” Goldberg said, adding his confidence was “always high. I was hoping that I would go (to Sochi) just to get experience for the combined, but we will see if I go do something else.”
Goldberg was off the Olympic downhill radar until arriving in Switzerland’s storied Alpine venue, for a second-tier Europa Cup race.
“I’ve been here two weeks and it feels like home,” said the American, who also made his World Cup downhill debut here one year ago, placing 34th then.
On Saturday, Goldberg finished 0.77 seconds back of Swiss winner Patrick Kueng in conditions far from ideal: rutted snow and no sunshine to light his racing line.
“The more bumpy and gnarly it is, it seems to suit me better,” Goldberg said. “Coming from the west of the U.S., I just grew up free-skiing all the time. When the light is not so good, I can still feel it with my feet.”
With two spots available, Sullivan of Squaw Valley, Calif., also impressed Rearick with an aggressive ski Saturday from a poor start number. He placed 16th, the same finish he got last month at Val Gardena, Italy.
Next Saturday at Kitzbuehel, Steven Nyman of Sundance, UT, and Erik Fisher of Middleton, ID, also have a last chance to guarantee a qualifying spot in the classic Hahnenkamm race.
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