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Olympic medalist surprised by mom who won gold 50 years ago

Barbara Ann Cochran beamed as she congratulated her son, skier Ryan Cochran-Siegle, for winning silver in Beijing — a half century after she won gold herself at the 1972 games in Japan.

U.S. skier Ryan Cochran-Siegle beamed as his mother surprised him with a phone call on TODAY Tuesday because now they both know what it feels like to take home an Olympic medal.

Fifty years after Barbara Ann Cochran won gold in the women's slalom at the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan, her son won a silver medal of his own in Tuesday's Super-G alpine event in Beijing.

Barbara tried to recall the delirious moments after he won the race when she spoke to him from the family's home in Vermont on FaceTime.

"I don’t remember," she told Craig Melvin. "I was so excited, I was just so proud. I was crying, it was just unbelievable. Congratulations, I’m just so proud Ryan, so proud of you."

Ryan Cochran-Siegle's mother Barbara, holding her grandson, congratulated her son after he won an Olympic skiing medal 50 years after she took home her own gold medal.
Ryan Cochran-Siegle's mother Barbara, holding her grandson, congratulated her son after he won an Olympic skiing medal 50 years after she took home her own gold medal.TODAY

"I couldn’t hold it together," Cochran-Siegle, 29, said about talking to his family after the race. "I was pretty emotional, too. I think I just wanted to share that moment with them, and it was cool. There weren’t very many words coming out of my mouth that I remember. Just so happy and elated that we were all teary-eyed."

Barbara Ann, 71, who runs the family's nonprofit ski school in Vermont, was doing her best just to stay awake due to the time difference with Beijing as she watched the race live. Her son finished just .04 seconds behind gold medalist Matthias Mayer of Austria.

"It was so late here, and it was two late nights in a row, it was really taking a toll on me," Barbara said. "So I got into my pajamas. Everybody else was in bed, everybody else had gone to sleep. I was watching on my laptop, and then started screaming as he was coming down, like really helping him along. ‘Go Ryan! Go Ryan! Go Ryan!'"

Not only did Cochran-Siegle's medal-winning run come nearly 50 years to the day from his mother's triumphant moment, it happened almost exactly a year after he had surgery on Feb. 9, 2021, for a broken neck.

He had two vertebrae fused following a frightening crash at a race in Austria that put his skiing career in jeopardy. He returned to action in his first World Cup event in October, so he only had a few months to gear up for the Olympics.

Even though Barbara Ann comes from a family of elite skiers, it's still hard to watch her son hurtle down mountains after seeing his crash in Austria.

"So what I’ve taken to doing, started to do now, it’s like every time he’s racing, I talk to the angels," she said. "I say, 'OK, Ryan’s racing today, please help him get down safely and healthy, and no more accidents, no more injuries.'"

Cochran-Siegle's performance makes him the first U.S. men's skier to earn a medal in Beijing and ends a drought after the U.S. men didn't win a single skiing medal at the 2018 Olympics.

"It was crazy crossing the finish line," he said. "For one, seeing that I was on the podium when I came through, and also seeing how close I was to the winner. I think it just justifies so much hard work and sacrifice that goes into every athlete such as myself, and (I'm) just really appreciating this moment."

He also joins an extraordinary tradition of Olympic skiers in his family. Barbara's three siblings, Marilyn, Bob and Lindy, also competed in the Winter Olympics, and Cochran-Siegle's cousin, Jimmy Cochran, is an Olympic skier who competed in 2006 and 2010, according to NBC Olympics.

TODAY also got a glimpse at possibly the next generation of Cochran family skiers, as Cochran-Siegle's toddler nephew, Calder, hopped up on Barbara's lap during the interview.

Hopefully one day he can take some inspiration from the incredible comeback by his uncle Ryan.

"It’s just about doing your best every single day regardless of the setbacks that you face," Cochran-Siegle said. "Never give up on yourself and give up on your dreams. Everything is attainable."