Nyman back on the podium at Beaver Creek
BEAVER CREEK — On Friday morning before the Birds of Prey downhill, American ski racer Steven Nyman wasn’t thinking that he was going to put down one of the fastest runs of the day at Beaver Creek. In fact, he was nervous.
“I woke up this morning and really wasn’t that confident,” said Nyman, 32. “I had to talk to myself and say, ‘This is your chance.’ I had to spend a lot of time looking at the course to find those right lines.”
That might come as a surprise to fans who saw the veteran downhiller scream to a third-place finish on Birds of Prey on Friday, charging the entire course and getting bigger air than almost any other racer. But anyone who has followed Nyman’s 13-year career on the U.S. Ski Team knows that the podium finish ends a long drought for the Utah native. The last time he was on the podium at Beaver Creek was in 2007, with a second place in the downhill, and since then, he’s only been on the podium once — a first-place finish in Val Gardena, Italy.
Nyman came onto the World Cup circuit with promise, but injuries that included a torn Achilles heel in 2011 and inconsistencies had him either sidelined or under-performing. In fact, he nearly didn’t make the ski team this year. He was given a discretionary spot on the B team, meaning he had to raise his own money to the tune of $20,000 to compete.
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New equipment, new training
On Friday, it seemed that maybe that drought had come to an end as a refreshed and smiling Nyman told reporters he was feeling as good as he’d ever felt. He attributed his results to new equipment and newfound fitness from the squad’s new conditioning coach, Toni Beretzki.
“It’s super encouraging,” Nyman said. “Just the training this fall has been encouraging. I knew there were some steps I had to take to get back in the top 30, to ski well and be back on the top. A goal of mine is consistency because I’ve always been up and down and that’s where Toni has come into play. I feel like I can make it through the whole year now.”
Nyman’s also skiing on a whole new setup, which includes new boots, a smaller fit and different bindings.
“I tore my equipment apart and started from scratch,” he said. “I wanted to find the most comfortable setup. If I’m comfortable, I’ll ski well.”
The equipment was just one step in retooling his race season, but he said he’s happy with the result, and he hopes to continue doing well this year, with a focus on the race where he’s won twice, Val Gardena.
“This summer, we eliminated all kinds of variables, and I’m skiing well. In Copper (for fall training), I was beating (Kjetil) Jansrud (who went won at Beaver Creek on Friday) and skiing super fast, so I know it’s there. I just needed to get back in the top 30. I love this hill. I love Val Gardena, and I hope to move forward there.”
Looking to 2015
Despite the travails in his career, Nyman said he’s never considered quitting. He points to older, still successful racers like Aksel Lund Svindal (who is out with a torn Achilles) and Bode Miller (who is recovering from back surgery).
“Everyone goes through it,” Nyman said. “We’re the old guys, but we love it and that’s what inspires us to keep going.”
He’s particularly excited about the fact that the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships are going to be held at Beaver Creek.
“I’m super excited for 2015 because I know how to ski this hill. It’s going to be a great party. All the people here are such good fans, and it’s good snow.”
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.