American Travis Ganong gets first World Cup downhill victory

American skier Travis Ganong earned his first World Cup victory at a men's downhill Sunday in Santa Caterina, Italy, less than six weeks before his home world championship race in Beaver Creek.

It's the second downhill win in a row for the U.S. team and the second in Italy after Steven Nyman's triumph in Val Gardena last week. The last American back-to-back downhill wins dated from the 2007-08 season when Bode Miller won in Bormio and Wengen.

“I had a super run and I am very happy,” Ganong said. “It's a sensational end to the year. I was attacking and I was having fun.”

On a course new to the men's circuit, Ganong finished in 1 minute 32.42 seconds to beat Olympic champion Matthias Mayer of Austria by 0.09 and Dominik Paris of Italy by 0.21.

Overall leader Kjetil Jansrud, who won two downhill races this season, was 1.35 behind and finished outside of the top 10, though he still leads the discipline standings.

Having a strong run from the start, Ganong excelled on the second part of the Deborah Compagnoni course. Several pre-race favorites had faster split times at the first section but couldn't match the American's pace afterward.

“I thought my run was fast,” said Mayer, who praised Ganong for his finish section. “On the bottom part I also wanted to race a direct line but I caught a bump and didn't manage to win back the lost time.”

Ganong's victory hasn't come out of the blue despite it being only his second World Cup podium.

The 26-year-old from Squaw Valley has enjoyed a strong 2014. He came fifth in the Olympic downhill in Sochi in February and earned his sole previous podium shortly afterward by placing third in Kvitfjell, Norway.

Ganong also came fifth in Beaver Creek earlier this month for his 11th career top-10 finish.

In Kuehtai, Austria, Swedish skier Sara Hector upset all pre-race favorites to win a women's World Cup giant slalom for her first career victory.

Hector finished in 2 minutes 17.61 seconds to beat Anna Fenninger of Austria by 0.09 seconds.

American teen Mikaela Shiffrin, who led after the opening run, came 0.18 behind in third.

“I love skiing GS right now, especially when I ski well, but it's not my favorite,” Shiffrin said. “I am satisfied to be on the podium again. I attacked (the second run) just enough to get a podium.”

Tina Maze of Slovenia was 0.68 behind in seventh and remained in the lead of the overall standings.

Hector's win came just over two weeks after she earned her first career World Cup podium, coming second in a GS in Are, Sweden.

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