Nyman looks to carry hot streak into World Cup ski season
They didn’t have the same magical qualities as Dorothy’s ruby slippers, but Steven Nyman’s new ski boots proved to be exactly what he needed to escape from the doldrums of his continuously average week-by-week results.
“It’s dumb that it comes down to things like that, but that is what makes it interesting, too,” Nyman said in an interview with The Aspen Times about his late-season equipment change last winter. “In ski racing there are so many variables and it’s a big puzzle and you have to continually work that puzzle and stay on top of your game. You can’t become relaxed with what you currently have. Things change, things break. Your body grows and deteriorates and you have to stay on top of all that.”
Nyman, 34, is a three-time Olympian and veteran on the U.S. Ski Team. A good but far from dominant Alpine skier, Nyman took on the look of a superstar late last season, his new boots getting much of the credit. He finished the year with a historical run, making four straight podiums, a first for an American downhiller. Nyman finished third in Jeongseon, second in Chamonix, third in Kvitfjell and second in the World Cup Finals at St. Moritz.
He finished the winter sixth overall in the men’s downhill for the second consecutive World Cup season, his career best finish.
“It’s a big motivator. I guess you can say the streak is still going, but that’s a long gap right there, so a lot of things can happen,” Nyman said of his four straight podiums to finish the 2016 season. “There are expectations upon me now. I made that run at the end of last year, so there are expectations within myself as well. The main thing I need to do is stay within myself and focus on those details and I think the results will take care of themselves.”
With Bode Miller’s return to the snow in jeopardy due to his ongoing lawsuit with Head, and Ted Ligety still recovering from injury, Nyman looks to be the torch bearer for the American men entering the 2017 season.
The season, unfortunately, has gotten off to a slow start with both men’s World Cup events in Lake Louise, Canada, and Beaver Creek having been canceled because of poor snow conditions. A schedule change has the men’s downhill skiers making their season debut next week in Val d’Isere, France.
Despite a broken wrist suffered while training in Chile earlier this year, Nyman said he is as healthy and as fit as he’s ever been.
“The goals we set forth we’ve attained and now it’s just chomping at the bit, waiting to see,” Nyman said. “What is really interesting is we have finals in Aspen and it would just be a dream season to wrap a title up there. But no American man has ever won a downhill title, so that’s a big undertaking. But to do that would be a dream come true.”
Like all the American skiers, making the World Cup Finals in Aspen is more than a goal, but possibly a once-in-a-career opportunity to compete on the World Cup’s biggest stage on U.S. soil. While the men’s World Cup hasn’t been to Aspen since 2001, Nyman did have the opportunity to race on Aspen Mountain during a Nor-Am event only a few seasons ago.
While it’s a hill he’s far from mastered, Nyman also believes it’s a hill that could bode well for the U.S. skiers come March.
“I still need to figure out that lower section. But the hill suits us well,” Nyman said of Ajax. “It would be great to put forth a good performance and put a couple guys on the podium there.”
The women’s World Cup skiers, who also finish the season in Aspen, next compete this weekend with giant slalom and slalom races in Killington, Vermont.
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There might be part of Hailey Swirbul that is finally beginning to believe she belongs. The 22-year-old cross-country skier is coming off quite a stretch with the U.S. ski team, one that includes her first career World Cup podium and a successful go in the notorious Tour de Ski stage race.