Supporting cast gives U.S. unusual depth at Beaver Creek | AspenTimes.com

Supporting cast gives U.S. unusual depth at Beaver Creek

Edward Stoner
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyAmerican Jeremy Transue kicks up a cloud of snow as he slides into the finish area during Thursday's downhill training run for the Birds of Prey races this weekend at Beaver Creek. Transue will be seeking his first World Cup points.

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. – For years, you could count on seeing Daron Rahlves and Bode Miller as top finishers in the world’s biggest ski races. But, for the Americans, there wasn’t much hope beyond those two.

Times have changed for the U.S. team. Its talent now extends well beyond established vets like Miller and Ted Ligety. Buoyed by up-and-comers skiers who are itching to break out, the team has a handful of skiers with legitimate shots at making World Cup podiums this season.

“We have eight or nine this year that score top 10s rather than four or five,” said Andrew Weibrecht, a 23-year-old from Lake Placid, N.Y. “Just on paper, there’s a lot more depth.

Weibrecht, who had a coming-out party here two years ago with a wild 10th-place run in the downhill, has been strong so far this year for the Americans.

“I’m super-confident,” Weibrecht said. “I feel like I’ve done some pretty good things so far, and I just have to stick with it, stick to my plan, trust myself.”

And the plan, Weibrecht said, is to go fast every weekend. He did just that last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta, where he notched a pair of 12th-place finishes.

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Erik Fisher, a 24-year-old from Middleton, Idaho, likewise seems poised to improve by leaps and bounds this year. After returning from an ACL injury that left him sidelined for the 2008, Fisher finished seventh last year in the World Cup downhill at Val Gardena, then 11th in the downhill on the famed Kitzbuehel track.

“Andrew and I, he’s a year younger than I am, but we’ve kind of come up in ski racing together,” Fisher said. “He had a top 10, and then I was able to get a top 10. We kind of made steps up together. We’re both skiing really fast right now. We both know that, and so it’s going to be fun to watch and see what we can do.”

In the run-up to this year’s Olympic Games in Vancouver, Fisher will be looking for a perfect storm of the right equipment, the right course, and the right self-confidence. With the performances last year at Kitzbuehel and Val Gardena – as well as the experience of overcoming a major injury – the confidence is there.

“It’s pretty cool coming in with some experience and knowing I can compete against these guys,” Fisher said. “So I’m pushing for a win this year. That’s what I want, definitely a podium. And, obviously, making the Olympic team and bringing home a medal for our country would be awesome.”

Another rising star is Jeremy Transue, a 26-year-old from Hunter Mountain, N.Y., who will be competing this weekend on the Birds of Prey course. Transue is looking to score his first World Cup points.

“Me, Fish and Weibrecht were there during training days, and we’re fighting with Bode and Marco (Sullivan) and (Steven) Nyman and those guys, and we’re right with them,” Transue said. “So it just takes the right day.”

Having seasoned winners around to give a few pointers is a pretty good boost, Transue said.

“We all help each other out on the hill,” he said. “If we see someone doing something that we think we can help, we say ‘Hey.’ Bode and Ted are two of the best guys in the world in this sport, so having those guys on the team and having their professional eye, it’s pretty awesome.”

estoner@vaildaily.com