Americans praise course, others give mixed reviews in Beaver Creek |

Americans praise course, others give mixed reviews in Beaver Creek

Ian Smith
Vail, CO Colorado
BOP Walchhofer downhill KA 12-05-08

BEAVER CREEK, Colorado ” Askel Lund Svindal is the story of the week so far, but if there’s a second choice, it might be the work of the volunteers who got the course ready for action before Friday’s downhill.

When Thursday’s super combined was canceled, race officials crossed their fingers everything would go well for the downhill. Thanks to the hard work of 300 course workers, 20 snow cats and seven winch cats, the race went off without a hitch Friday.

“(The course) is great. We haven’t had this kind of weather for three years on this course. The snow was great. The weather was great. I just messed up. It’s a bummer, it sucks,” American Marco Sullivan said after his disappointing DNF in the downhill.

The American Ski Team largely praised the course for being in excellent condition. The most challenging portion for racers was the Screech Owl Jump. Both Bode Miller and Sullivan had problems. Miller lost control, clipping a gate, before spiraling down the course on his back. The overall World Cup champion took a couple minutes to get up, then he skied off the course.

Sullivan didn’t wipe out, but he also fell victim to Screech Owl, skiing out of bounds to end his day.

“The course is kind of unforgiving, and there’s actually two places you have to nail,” American Scotty McCartney said. “I guess both Bode and Marco missed the gate right before the Screech Owl Jump. On that one, the line was a little inside, you had to be patient there. Then coming into the finish here off the Harrier jump, you have to be patient with that turn. It’s blind, and really tough timing.”

While the American’s applauded the race course conditions, others gave mixed reviews. Defending Birds of Prey downhill champion Michael Walchhofer said the conditions were “very tough,” especially in the glide sections.

Herminator fights course

Hermann Maier didn’t have his best stuff on Friday at the Birds of Prey downhill. Right from the start, it was easy to see Maier was fighting the course. Around one of the first turns, one of Maier’s skis went airborne before he could regain control.

Despite the less than stellar performance, Maier managed to finish in 12th place, which speaks to tremendous ability. After the race, Maier talked with reporters about how he’s changed as he’s gotten longer in the tooth.

“I guess, it always how you are feeling right at the moment if you can risk (it) or not,” he said. “If you aren’t feeling the self confidence, then it gets hard.”

Defending champ runs strong

Forgive Walchhofer if he is a little bummed about not defending his Birds of Prey downhill title on Friday. Last year, the Austrian skied his way past the competition from a weather downhill start.

On Friday, Walchhofer was right with Svindal through The Flyway before losing time in the middle sections of the course.

“It’s not bad, for sure,” Walchhofer said. “I wanted to try and win or be on the podium. It’s OK, especially with the course being not so easy to ski.”

Day off

The weather may have canceled Thursday’s super combined, but it didn’t keep the skiers off the slopes. Easy-going American Steven Nyman took advantage of the day off by skiing in powder ” a rare luxury for someone who makes his living by racing on the iced-down courses of the World Cup circuit.

Sports Writer Ian Smith can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

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