Bob Cochran

Like mother, like son, like cousins, like ...

Forty years after his mom won Olympic gold in the slalom in Japan, Ryan Cochran-Siegle won the alpine Junior World downhill championship in Italy. And Barbara Ann Cochran was there to see it.

Pretty neat stuff for the Cochrans, widely regarded as the first family of American alpine racing.

But there's a twist.

Barbara Ann didn't get filthy rich off that Olympic medal. Hardly.

This wasn't cause for celebrating with magnums of Champagne. Or, it being Italy, Asti.

More like buckets of Vermont maple syrup.

A little background:

Ryan's grandfather, Mickey, was once the U.S. alpine coach. "There's a piece of Ryan that reminds me of my dad," who was not just not just a multi-sport athlete and pretty darned good at a lot of them, Barbara Ann said. "I just feel like [Ryan] has a pretty good head on his shoulders."

Over the years, the skiing Cochrans' contributions to the U.S. Olympic Team have been formidable indeed.

Three women: Marilyn (1972 Sapporo), Barbara (1972 Sapporo), Lindy (1976 Innsbruck).

Two men: Bob (1972 Sapporo) and son Jimmy (2006 Torino, 2010 Vancouver).

Cousins Jessica (a former Junior Worlds medalist) and Tim Kelley have been on the U.S. Ski Team, and Robby Kelley is currently on the Team.

And now Ryan is the Junior Worlds downhill champion.

He won, racing in Roccaraso, Italy, a few days ago, wearing a sticker on his helmet that proclaims, "Slopeside Syup" -- a family business started by four of his cousins. Kind of a sponsor, he said.

Ryan had, arguably, the day's worst start position: No. 1.

Usually, that's when the snow and the conditions can be the worst.

Except on this day -- it was the best, because the course was hard and cold.

And as the day warmed up, the others had to race on snow that increasingly turned slushy.

Ryan, who is 19 years old, finished in 1:11.99. "When I got to the finish, I knew I definitely had a good run and I was hoping I could stay on top," he said later.

Ralph Weber of Switzerland, bib No. 6, managed to get within nine-hundredths of a second.

Nils Mani, also Swiss, running third, was 49-hundredths back.

No one else was within half a second.

It's not as if this win came out of the blue. Ryan scored some World Cup points a couple weeks back, in super-G.

The amazing thing, to be blunt, is what his upside could be.

Skiing, as is obvious, can be a very expensive proposition.

Ryan has an older sister, Caitlin. Barbara Ann has been single-parenting for most of their lives. She has, she said, been a part-time teacher. She has worked at the family ski area in Richmond, Vt. She has done this and done that.

"It was a struggle," she said, "for me to pay my bills and come up with enough money to pay for entry fees and licenses and season passes at other areas. It really -- it was a struggle for me," she said. "I got so much help from so many other people."

She laughed when it was pointed out that some believe that an Olympic gold medal is  the ticket to the high life.

"You have no idea," she said. "It has been so difficult. That whole saying -- that it takes a village to raise a child -- has been so true for our kids. I have gotten so much help from so many people. People I don't know."

And people she does.

The trip to get her to Italy to see Ryan ski -- her brother, Bob, and brother-in-law, Steve Kelley, paid for that. "I can't tell you how much that means to me that they gave this trip and also the trip to World Juniors last year," she said.

Last season, someone else stepped forward to help underwrite Ryan's skiing.

 All of this has been impressed on her son. He has been on skis since he was 2.

"I think ski racing is -- it takes a lot of preparation, for sure," he said. "A lot of people -- if they don't reach a certain level, they fade away. If you prepare and you're willing to try to go for it all, it's possible. You should go for it.

"I'm trying."

U.S. Ski Team's depth -- wow

The stars of the U.S. Ski Team delivered this weekend. So, too, did some up-and-comers, and that's why the U.S. Ski Team is now, truly, one of the best in the world. It's not some advertising slogan anymore or some pumped-up corporate motto or even some "let's get the troops fired up so everyone who works here might one day believe it" kind of deal.

It's fact.

It's one thing to see Lindsey Vonn, Julia Mancuso and Ted Ligety on the podium. Each is a proven talent, a star at the top of the game.

But Nolan Kasper in second place? And -- in the slalom? Only one word will do to describe that: wow.

The good news didn't stop there: Laurenne Ross came in fourth in the super-G, behind Vonn, Mancuso and Germany's Maria Riesch.

Over the course of the past three Olympic Games, Vonn, Mancuso, Ligety and, of course, Bode Miller have firmly established the U.S. team as a genuine force in alpine skiing.

Here, then, is the top line from this weekend, the men racing in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, the women in Tarvisio, Italy:

Vonn secured three World Cup season titles -- downhill, super-G and super-combined. She also cut the lead that Riesch holds in the overall to 96 points; six races remain.

And this:

Ligety took third in Friday's giant slalom, his speciality. He is now the clear favorite to win the season GS championship.

Mancuso's second in the super-G,  meanwhile, continued her first-rate season.

Of course, the challenge for any program is to move beyond individual excellence -- to develop a pipeline of ongoing talent. The emergence of Andrew Weibrecht, who earned a bronze medal at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, suggested the U.S. team was indeed on the way.

Weibrecht, injured, has missed this season. Now come, among others, Kasper and Ross.

"My god, how cool -- we were all, all the girls were in the hotel lobby watching his run and we were so fired up," Vonn said, referring to Kasper's slalom silver. "I mean -- the whole restaurant was staring at us; we were screaming pretty loud."

Mancuso, referring to Ross, said, "It was awesome .. special … so super-cool."

Ross is 22. She writes a super-interesting and -thoughtful blog.

She said of being fourth: "I'm not disappointed. it would have been nice to have been third but …  this is my first top five, this is my first top 10, this is my first top 15 in a World Cup,."

Noting her 10th-place finish in the downhill at last month's world championships in Germany, she went on to say, "This is my first time being in there, really, at a World Cup. I'm psyched with fourth. At least now I know I can be in there. I'm OK with Lindsey and Julia and Maria beating me. They're really good skiers. I'm psyched to be in there with them."

As for the 21-year-old Kasper -- if you have been following the season closely, you could see this coming.

He has, as he said afterward, been going fast in training. He notched a couple top-15 slalom finishes, then came in 10th last week. A close dissection of the stats shows that the 13th he earned on Jan. 25 in Schladming, Austria, included the second-fastest time on the second run.

Nearly 40 other racers went out Sunday. Kasper, though, turned it on, U.S. men's head coach Sasha Rearick afterward calling Kasper's performance "some of the most impressive skiing of the season by any athlete of the World Cup -- he took some chances, put pressure on the right spots and went really fast."

Austria's Mario Matt won the race, Kasper nine-hundredths back.

Miller was the last American male to finish in the top three in a World Cup slalom race, in 2008.

The last time before that, per the authority, Ski Racing magazine's online edition:

Felix McGrath, in 1988.

Again, from Ski Racing: "Kasper's name now joins those of American legends from the early days of the World Cup, when slalom podiums where more routine:  From '67 to '72 Tyler Palmer, Bob Cochran, Rich Chaffee, Bill Kidd, Spider Sabich and Jimmy Huega all picked up podiums. And, of course, Phil and Steve Mahre got a full share in the late '70s and early '80s, retiring in 1984."