American speedsters primed for home races
BEAVER CREEK — A non-Bode Miller U.S. Men’s Ski Team has a bit of a swagger.
And that’s a development.
With Miller out with back surgery, hoping to return for the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in February, there was some question as to what the American presence would be in the speed events at Birds of Prey.
The U.S. had four racers in the points in the season-opening downhill and super-G in Lake Louise, Alberta, last weekend. The training results have followed in Beaver Creek, and the Americans hope to make a dent in the podium in speed, starting with Friday’s downhill at 10:45 a.m.
“Our team is as good as any team,” said Squaw Valley, California’s Travis Ganong. “It’s just a matter of having good days and bad days. When you have those good days, everyone’s going to be fast.”
Ganong is going fast, despite a fractured left tibial plateau, which he earned on the first day of training on Copper Mountain. He really wasn’t meant to race last weekend up in Canada, but he did and finished 10th in the downhill and 21st in the super-G.
The latter was particularly gratifying as he made a major mistake on that run and was able to recover. Ganong, 26, who had his first podium in February, finished fourth in Wednesday’s training.
“I stood up a little bit before the jumps because I didn’t want to go that big because I wanted to save it for the race,” he said of his knee.
Steve Nyman’s looking more and more like he’s back in the mix. He started in the 40s in both races up in Lake Louise and was 16th in the downhill and 29th in the super-G.
“I felt great last year,” Nyman said. “But I basically blew my equipment apart this spring. … I downsized boots. I figured out binding placements and all kinds of stuff, and I’m really excited with what I’m feeling.”
Nyman tied for fifth on Tuesday in training and was ninth on Wednesday.
Like Nyman, Andrew Weibrecht is battling the with his bib number. Start position is based on World Cup points of the previous year in the early season. But when you’ve been hurt like Weibrecht, you don’t have points and are caught in a catch-22. Weibrecht’s started 74th on both days of training and placed 34th on Tuesday and 35th on Wednesday.
Based on training times, it’s just a mater of tenths-of-a-second to pop into the top 30 and the points that would move up his start position.
“I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t think I could do it,” he said. “That’s the plan.”
Weibrecht is in the top 30 in super-G, a discipline in which he has won bronze and silver medals during the last two Olympic Games. Ironically, despite those two medals, the Lake Placid, New York, racer has yet to podium on the World Cup.
A lot of that has been health — he’s had surgeries on both of his shoulder and ankles. He says he’s healthy now.
“That’s a total bonus,” Weibrecht said. “I feel good. It makes it so much easier to get out of bed and do it and feel confident. It’s just a good time.”
The kid and the vet
Marco Sullivan and Jared Goldberg are approaching Birds of Prey and the rest of the season from opposite ends of the spectrum.
Sullivan is 34 and coming off a fifth-place finish in the Lake Louise downhill.
“It was great to start it out with a solid run,” Sullivan said. “I didn’t ski a lot this summer, so I wasn’t sure where I would stack up. I raced Nor-Ams there since I was 17, 18. I can go up there and be totally comfortable on the hill and start the season well.”
While Sullivan’s said his back is occasionally cranky and he needs to warm up properly to loosen it up, he still feels he has the speed to make some noise this year.
When Sullivan was skiing those Nor-Ams in Canada, Goldberg was 6 or 7. The 24-year-old from Holladay, Utah, believes that things are starting to click for him as he gains the experience that Sullivan already has on the tour.
Goldberg finished 11th in the Kitzbuehel, Austria, super-combined and 12th in the Wengen, Switzerland, downhill last year. Those are two very good places to have the top performances of one’s career to date.
“It’s definitely nice when you can have a good day and put it down,” Goldberg said. “It gives you a little bit more power. You go, ‘OK, I’m definitely in there. I showed it.’”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.