World Cup: U.S. racers look to defend home snow at Beaver Creek | AspenTimes.com

World Cup: U.S. racers look to defend home snow at Beaver Creek

Ian Smith
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyU.S. racer Steven Nyman looks up at the time board as he waits to see his time at the finish line of the Birds of Prey Downhill course on the first day of training on Tuesday.

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. ” If Wednesday’s news conference is any indication, the U.S. Ski Team is one relaxed bunch.

Steven Nyman touched on such topics as German cars, driving around Europe, and Utah in the Bowl Championship Series (although, he wishes it were his hometown BYU Cougars about to play in the BCS). Fellow American, Ted Ligety, talked about his new business ventures.

“I flow, I guess,” Nyman said. “That’s kind of my style. I’m just relaxed. I really like to flow. I’m like water. I like molding to the situation that’s given to me.”

Maybe, the Americans are feeling the “flow” because of their success in Beaver Creek. Nyman and Ligety are two skiers who’ve had good luck in the past reaching the podium.

“I like the hill a lot,” Nyman said. “I can see where I need to go, what I need to do. I’m just comfortable here. Also, it’s hometown soil. It’s motivating. It’s demanding. It’s a heightened focus level, I guess.”

Ligety is no stranger to the winner’s circle. In the 2006 Winter Olympics, he surprised the world by winning the combined. At age 21, he became the first American man to win an Olympic gold medal in alpine skiing in 12 years.

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Since then, he’s found success in the giant slalom. Last season, he won the World Cup giant slalom title.

“Ted had to learn how to ski consistent,” U.S. head coach Sasha Rearick said. “He had to learn to win races. He had to learn a lot of things. He had to grow up. He’s a tremendous skier, there’s no question about that.”

The next step for Ligety may be a move to try and win the overall World Cup title. That means he needs to improve in the other four disciplines (besides giant slalom), and become more consistent in each.

Nyman embodies the laid-back surfer attitude most ski bums, and snowboarders, in the area have. The last time he got freaked out before a race came before the downhill at the 2006 Olympic Games. The race fell on his birthday, and he started envisioning what it’d be like to win.

After a disappointing finish, he adopted the more-relaxed attitude toward his results. The change paid off in more podiums.

“People talk about pressure, I don’t really think pressure gets to me,” Nyman said. “It’s not something I really think about it. Every race is any race. It’s me vs. the mountain.”

Nyman, one of the tallest skiers on the circuit at 6-foot-4, landed the first podium of his career at the 2006 Birds of Prey in the downhill. Last year, he took second in the event.

Despite a shaky finish at Lake Louise, Alberta, last weekend, Nyman should be in contention again on Friday when the downhill race takes place.

“Steven is mad at himself,” Rearick said. “He didn’t perform how he wanted to in Lake Louise. I don’t see that as a bad thing. He’s such a competitor. Competitors come back.”

Both Nyman and Ligety made it a point to say how excited they are to be racing in the United States. Both hail from Utah, meaning friends and family can easily drive to Beaver Creek for the races.

“It’s our big home race,” Ligety said. “It’s the only race we get to have in the United States. It’s very important for us. It’s nice to be able to go to a race where are your friends and family can show up. Beaver Creek is obviously awesome for all events.”

ismith@vaildaily.com

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