Beaver Creek World Cup: Americans vets no longer kidding around | AspenTimes.com

Beaver Creek World Cup: Americans vets no longer kidding around

Chris Freud
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyAmerican Steve Nyman checks his time on the scoreboard during Thrusday's training run for the Birds of Prey men's downhill race at Beaver Creek. Now in his ninth year with the U.S. Team, Nyman is a factor in most speed races.

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. – The guys who were the U.S. Men’s Ski Team’s “kids” a few years ago aren’t skiing like kids anymore.

While Bode Miller remains much-watch skiing by nature, the kids are taking over the mantle of the U.S. Ski Team.

Marco Sullivan finishing sixth in the Birds of Prey downhill in 2002 was a big news item at the time. Ted Ligety’s bronze in the 2005 slalom here was a feel-good story.

No more.

Sure, it’s an Olympic year – and all speak about Vancouver with proper cliches – but for Ligety, Steve Nyman, Sullivan and Scott Macartney, the focus is on capturing podiums and winning races.

And this quartet, along with Miller, gives the U.S. Team unusual depth, but also a chance to win races in every discipline on any given day.

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“When you train, you know you’re with guys who challenge you every day,” Macartney said. “If you have a good training run and you’re beating people, you know, chances are, you’re going to be fast wherever you go.”

At first glance, Ligety still looks like a babe in the woods. But at 26, his resume belies his appearance. He has four World Cup wins in giant slalom and already has Olympic gold from Torino, Italy, in 2006.

While all eyes will be on the Park City, Utah, native come Sunday for the GS, Ligety is working on his speed disciplines. He’s started the season with an eighth in super G up in Lake Louise, Alberta. Not only is he no longer “900th in the world in super G,” as he joked earlier this week, but those sort of results have him thinking about Friday’s super combined.

“I think I still have a ways to go in downhill at least for the gliding skills of it,” Ligety said. “I just have a little trouble being a little two-footed in the dip into the turns. I’m still working on that. GS and slalom have been really good. If I get those skills going in downhill, that will be good.”

Nyman has no problem when it comes to the downhill. After never finishing on the course, he broke through with his first World Cup win at Val Gardena, Italy, in 2007. Knee surgery wiped out a good portion of last season, but Planet Provo, as he’s known in skiing circles, feels he’s rounding into form.

“I think the biggest thing is knowing I’ve had success and that I can do and I know what it takes,” he said. “It’s just a matter of executing like I can execute and trusting my body. I’m still trying to gain that trust right now. It’s just miles under my feet. I really haven’t had that many miles, so I guess that’s good news.”

Sullivan also knows what it takes to triumph in the downhill. He won in Chamonix, France, during the 2007-08 season.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Sullivan said. “A lot of our dreams have been to be the fastest racer in the world. For me, it’s only happened on one day, but regardless, that one day was kind of the culmination of years and years of training. It’s an amazing feeling. I’m out here everyday trying to get back to that point.”

Meanwhile, Macartney who turns 32 in January, has dealt with seemingly every form of adversity in his career, but is still in the running for his third Olympic team next year.

“I’m looking forward to the year. It’s been a bumpy road for the last couple of seasons,” Macartney said, referring to a terrible crash in Kitzbuehel, Austria, in 2008, and another in Wengen, Switzerland, last winter. “I’m looking forward to having a good year and jumping onto the momentum we have as a team.”

All of this experience translates into a ton of competition on race day and in practice.

“In training, it’s a lot better when there’s a lot of guys pushing,” Ligety said. “In GS, there’s a guy named Tommy Ford who’s actually faster than me most of the time in training. It’s good to have someone like that who’s young and pushing the limits. That makes me step it up.”

“I think there’s a silent push that goes on,” Nyman said. “You include (Erik) Fish(er) and (Andrew) Weibrecht in there and (Jeremy) Transue, and there’s eight or nine guys who possibly could get an Olympic spot. So you’ve got to be on top of your game every race.”

cfreud@vaildaily.com