By JEROME PUGMIRE
2014-02-28 11:42 PM
KVITFJELL, Norway (AP) -- With the World Cup season nearly over, Travis Ganong is just getting started.
The American earned the first podium of his career on Friday, finishing only .12 seconds behind co-winners Kjetil Jansrud Georg Streitberger in a World Cup downhill.
With another downhill scheduled for Saturday, the 25-year-old Ganong is hoping to do even better and emulate some of his more illustrious countrymen.
"Tommy Moe won here and Daron Rahlves won here and hopefully I can bring it back to the U.S. with a win tomorrow," Ganong said. "I'm not burnt out at all. Usually at this time of year people are tired and right now I feel like I'm just starting out the season."
Moe won the gold medal at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics while Rahlves won back-to-back World Cup downhills in Kvitfjell in March 2000, as well as a super-G in March 2004.
Ganong's previous best result was seventh, but an impressive fifth-place finish in the downhill at the Sochi Olympics was a clear sign of his improving form.
"This is a really big step in my career. I've been slowly building up the last four years on the World Cup tour and this last month or so I've really been finding some speed," he said. "I always told myself I'd get to this point. It's just a matter of time. I've had enough time now racing all these hills and I'm comfortable."
As well as feeling more relaxed, Ganong said he is "stronger and more fit" than he used to be -- and he credits that to conditioning coach Toni Beretzki, who trained the Austrian ski team during the days of Hermann Maier and Stephan Eberharter.
"He totally revitalized our conditioning plan and we worked way harder this last summer than we've ever done before," Ganong said. "Now within the season, we're able to lift and ski more, generally do more work and build throughout the season."
Ganong was the eighth skier to start Friday's race. The weather was miserable, with rain and fog making the Olympiabakken slope slushy.
"When I went it was raining and I had to do a goggle wipe halfway down the hill," Ganong said. "But on days like today it's tough you've just got to forget about the weather and just ski. You can't really see anything, so you just have to put your head down."
Still, those conditions reminded him of his childhood, when he would spend hours out in the rain when others stayed indoors.
"I grew up in Lake Tahoe, California, and skiing at Squaw Valley -- the same place as Julia Mancuso, Marco Sullivan and Daron Rahlves," he said. "Growing up there you have passion for skiing, it's embedded in our culture. I would even be out there on rainy days like today and just having a great time."