American skiers are excited to be back at Beaver Creek again after year away | AspenTimes.com

American skiers are excited to be back at Beaver Creek again after year away

John LaConte
Vail Daily

Travis Ganong, of the United States, makes it over the first roll of The Brink section during the first day of training for the Brids of Prey World Cup on Wednesday, Nov. 29, in Beaver Creek. After a rough go in Lake Louise, Alberta, last weekend, Ganong is hoping to bounce back in familiar environs.

BEAVER CREEK — The last time a super-G race was held on the Birds of Prey track, Americans earned four of the top-12 positions and two podiums.

As they prepare to kick off the Birds of Prey World Cup races once again with a super-G on Friday, those same Americans are happy to be back on home snow with a chance to shine in front of their fans.

"We're super excited to go back," said Andrew Weibrecht of Lake Placid, New York. "It's always fun to race in front of the home crowd … we have Lake Louise (Alberta), but (Beaver Creek) really feels like the first World Cup of the year, because that's the one that the atmosphere and everything else is there, as well."

Weibrecht finished in third place in his last appearance in Beaver Creek. Edging him out for second place was Ted Ligety, a giant-slalom specialist who also has found success in the more technical super-G tracks on the circuit.

Ligety said following his recent string of injuries, including a torn ligament in his knee and a herniated disc in his back, he's finally feeling race ready.

"Right now I feel good," Ligety told reporters during a recent training session. "It's the best I've felt health-wise in the last couple years."

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ROAD TO RECOVERY

Ligety is one of several Americans battling his way back from injury. Steven Nyman, a veteran ski racer from Utah, has had several podium finishes in Beaver Creek, but said on Wednesday he's still not sure if he'll get in the starting gate this weekend. Nyman crashed hard in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, in early 2017, tearing three different ligaments in his left knee.

"I'm going to try to take a step forward every training run and gain the confidence," Nyman said from the bottom of the Birds of Prey course Wednesday. "And then I'll make the call. … I didn't fully attack, and when I had the feeling to attack I hesitated a little."

Nyman also participated in training in Lake Louise last weekend in the first official downhill training session of the 2017-18 season, but didn't end up racing.

Now back in Beaver Creek, Nyman said he's happy to be on snow on his favorite hill, regardless of what happens on race day.

"It was great to be back here," he said. "I love it. I love skiing on this hill."

'PERFECT SHAPE'

The other impressive American from previous Beaver Creek World Cups and the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships is Travis Ganong. The 29-year-old finished second in the downhill at the World Championships in February of 2015, and then returned in December to take sixth in the super-G.

Ganong was not shy when asked about the conditions in Beaver Creek compared to what he saw four days ago in Canada.

"We were up in Lake Louise last week skiing in the most garbage, worst snow ever," he said, "just dreaming about coming back here and skiing on the good surface. … It's in perfect shape."

Ganong said the cold temperatures were the difference maker.

"They don't need natural snow here to have a good race," he said. "Luckily they had the temperatures to make enough snow."

The fourth American to crack into the top 12 at the 2015 Birds of Prey super-G was New York's Tommy Biesemeyer. His 11th-place finish in that race was, at the time, the best result of his career.

With good finishes like that one come more pressure, and Biesemeyer said he's finally learning how to deal with it.

"It's hard for an athlete when they're expected to perform, because you start to focus on the result, rather than the process," said Biesemeyer, who will turn 29 in January. "That's something that I've got caught up in in the past. I think last season was the first time I really started to mature as an athlete and be able to handle that pressure and just focus on what I need to do and get the results that I dream of."

jlaconte@vaildaily.com

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