Bryce Bennett is ready to race.
The California native has been a force to be reckoned with on the slopes recently, notching solid performances around the world and, now, with the weight of USA skiing on his shoulders, Bennett is making the push towards the podium.
Here’s everything you need to know:
1. Bennett First Started Skiing at Two Years Old
He’s been on the slopes for as long as he can remember. Bennett first started skiing when he was just two years old and he’s loved every single minute of it.
The Westminster College grad grew up in Tahoe City, California and now he’s adding his name to an ever growing list of dominant skiers from the Squaw Valley region. He picked up an invite to the 2011 spring tryout camp and joined Team USA shortly after. Bennett missed the cut ahead of the 2014 Sochi Games, but he’s hit his stride recently and his career took off, quite literally, in 2016.
Bennett racked up the accolades that year, including a performance in Val Gardena that saw him catapult into sixth place after racing 57th on the day. He told US Ski and Snowboard thinking about the moment still gives him chills:
I’m still surprised. I crossed the finish and saw sixth and I was like, what? No chance! The timer is broken! I just got in the zone somehow. I’ve been working on it, and it clicked a little bit. I just laser beamed the whole course, just focused every section and it was fast.
In 2017, Bennett did his best to keep up his string of success, placing 11th in alpine combined and 26th in downhill at the World Championship.
2. His Parents Worked on the Slopes & Encouraged His Career
He’s a bit of a legacy.
Bennett, who tied a career best with a ninth-place finish at the World Cup races in Wengen, Switzerland in January 2018, was all but destined to be a skier, particularly after growing up with parents who were always around the slopes.
His father was a former telemark racer, while his mother worked at Alpine Meadows Resort in Squaw Valley, California. Bennett’s parents have been there very step of his career and were the first to support him after he declared, at just eight years old, he was going to ski in the Olympics.
“They had some amazing Mighty Mite coaches at Squaw,” Bennett told US Ski and Snowboarding. “They just got you so pumped for skiing, no matter what the weather was doing.”
It didn’t take long for his parents to realize Bennett was on the right track – literally. He U.S. downhill title in 2013 and was the fastest American in the first men’s downhill training run at PyeongChang.
Bennett also credits his girlfriend for his success recently and the two are regularly spotted together while he’s competing as well as on his Instagram.
3. Bennett Used to be a BMX Racer
Difficult as it may be to imagine, Bennett isn’t always skiing. In fact, Bennett can often be found on his bike and previously competed as a BMX racer before trading in his gear for recreational mountain biking.
Of course, his hometown presents a perfect chance to take in the great outdoors and Bennett has recently developed a brand-new habit – golfing and fishing. He told US Ski and Snowboarding: “I’ve had some good weeks, last one I was two over for 18. My favorite [fishing] spot is the Truckee River, but you’ll never get me to tell you where my holes are.”
4. He’s the Only U.S. Man in the top-20 World Cup Standings
Bennett has the weight of American men’s skiing on his shoulders heading into PyeongChang. His fellow teammate Steven Nyman – who finished third in the Olympic test event – tore his right ACL just one day after being named to his fourth Olympic team, leaving the brunt of expectations on Bennett.
He’s hoping to fulfill them.
Bennett notched the seventh-fastest time in training on February 7 and comes into the Olympics riding a wave of consistent success in 2017. He finished in the top 30 in more than of the World Cup races he started – including an eighth-place finish on the Val Gardena, Italy track. He also recorded points in every race he finished in 2018 and according to his coach, Johno McBride, it’s “only a matter of time” for Bennett to reach the podium.
5. Bennett is the Tallest American Athlete at PyeongChang
Bennett was already making headlines before he got to PyeongChang – even if it didn’t have anything to do with his time coming down the slopes. The California native is the tallest American athlete at the 2018 Games, towering over the metaphorical competition at 6-foot-7.
He wasn’t surprised.
“As soon as I heard them say the tallest Olympian is … I knew it would be me,” Bennett told KCRA TV.
Of course, Bennett is used to the height-related questions and, sometimes, gets them about his mentor as well. Steven Nyman, who has been helping Bennett fine-tune his talent for years, is also one of the taller athletes in the sport, measuring in at 6-foot-4.