Ben Ritchie turned his season portfolio of DNFs and DNQs around on Friday with his first Europa Cup podium and win at the Meiringen Hasliberg slalom. Joining Ritchie was teammate Jett Seymour in third, just hours before turning the car around for the nearly seven-hours journey to compete in the world championship slalom on Sunday.
Ritchie left for Cortina with a big smile on his face. On Thursday, the 20-year-old nearly missed his first Europa Cup podium by 0.08 seconds and finished fourth, moving up 27 spots from bib 31. On Friday, Ritchie grabbed his first victory in more than a year, this time just two days before he competes in the world championship slalom.
Judging by his skiing and prior slalom success, it’s hard to believe the B Team member has not finished or qualified for a race since the U.S. nationals in November. The Meiringen Hasliberg slalom was Ritchie and Seymour’s first Europa Cups of the 2020-21 season after spending the last three months in Europe, a schedule that instead has been filled with World Cup slaloms. For Ritchie, the Europa Cup success builds momentum going into the biggest focus of his season after world champs, world junior championships, which are set for Bansko, Bulgaria, March 3-10.
“The decision to race at the Europa Cup leading into this is a pretty simple one,” said Jesse Hunt, U.S. Ski Team alpine director. “It goes back to the ‘winning at every level’ mantra, and the goal we set out to achieve was achieved with some solid skiing and great progress shown from both Jett and Ben, earning their first Europa Cup podiums and building confidence and momentum coming into world champs.”
Ritchie will represent the USA at world junior championships once again after the 2020 competition in Narvik, Norway was cut short due to the coronavirus outbreak. The six-foot-three skier will have a chance to reinforce his 2019 world junior success, where he captured silver medals in the slalom and team event.
Meanwhile, teammate Seymour will join Ritchie at world championships on Sunday after coming off back-to-back top-10 Europa Cup finishes, including his sixth place finish on Thursday.