Underdog Bryce Bennett shocks top contenders in Val Gardena’s World Cup downhill event.

Bryce Bennett from the United States caused a major upset by winning the first men’s downhill race of the World Cup season in Val Gardena, Italy on Thursday.

The 31-year-old skier, from Palisades Tahoe, started with the No 34 bib and finished first on a shortened course with a time of 1min 23.80sec. He was just three hundredths of a second ahead of Aleksander Aamodt Kilde from Norway, who is a three-time winner at the Dolemites resort. Bennett was also five seconds faster than Marco Odermatt from Switzerland, the reigning world champion in the discipline.

Standing at 6ft 7in, Bennett used his tall frame to his advantage and navigated the technical Ciaslat section of the track. In the final gates, he adopted an aerodynamic tuck to gain time over Kilde and Odermatt.

Upon seeing the result, Bennett couldn’t hide his surprise and joy. He held his arms out wide and flashed a wide smile framed by his mustache. He then let out a scream of excitement.

“I really didn’t expect that at all. I woke up this morning with a lot of doubt, but I just needed to ski freely and trust myself. It worked out and it was such a surprise to see that I had won,” Bennett said.

Kilde and Odermatt had already celebrated and were giving interviews when they turned around to see Bennett’s result. Kilde remarked, “That’s how ski racing is and that’s why we love it.”

For Bennett, this victory is a significant improvement from his previous best finish of 10th place last season. He has big aspirations for the rest of the season and hopes to perform well in upcoming races in Bormio, Wengen, Kitzbühel, and Chamonix.

The US team has had a strong start to the World Cup season, with victories in both the men’s and women’s downhill races. Mikaela Shiffrin won the women’s downhill in St. Moritz, Switzerland last weekend.

This win in Val Gardena marks the sixth victory for the US team in this event. Previous winners include Steven Nyman and Bode Miller.

Bennett’s ski technician, Leo Mussi, previously worked with Nyman and Kristian Ghedina, a four-time Val Gardena downhill winner.

The race in Val Gardena was rescheduled from the Zermatt-Cervinia event, which has yet to take place. The speed races in Beaver Creek, Colorado were also canceled recently.

The upcoming schedule includes a super-G on Friday, another downhill on Saturday, and giant slalom races in Alta Badia on Sunday and Monday.

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