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Beaver Creek Super-combi favors downhillers, champ says

Erica Bulman
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyU.S. Ski Team member and Olympic Super-combi champion Ted Ligety smiles Wednesday during an interview in Beaver Creek.
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BEAVER CREEK, Colorado “Ted Ligety is on the official poster for the Birds of Prey World Cup event this week. Organizers no doubt pegged the 2006 Olympic combined champion as one of the favorites to win Thursday’s super-combi.

However, Ligety isn’t convinced he’ll live up to expectations.

The Olympic champion said this week’s super-combi on the rushing, bumpy Birds of Prey course favors experienced downhillers rather than slalom specialists, like himself.

“The downhill guys with experience will definitely have the advantage,” Ligety said of the race, which adds the times of one downhill run and a single slalom leg. “The gnarlier the downhill, the more the downhill guys have the advantage.”

Though neither speed experts nor slalom specialists usually want to acknowledge they have an advantage in a combined race, it’s tough to deny it this year at Beaver Creek.

Already a challenging downhill course, this year the Birds of Prey downhill course is even tougher and faster than usual.

After warm temperatures moved in, race organizers last week scrambled to produce artificial snow to cover the lower half, where the layer covering the terrain is relatively thin.

Thin snow cover means the hill’s contours are very marked and the terrain is much more abrupt. When there is more snow, the track is smoother.

Making things even tougher for the technical specialists is the fact there was only one training run on the downhill course instead of two. Wednesday’s practice was canceled because of heavy overnight snow, which needed to be cleared off the 1.62-mile course.

“I agree with him (Ligety),” said American Steve Nyman, the winner of the tough Val Gardena downhill who finished third at Beaver Creek last winter. “I think there’s not many training runs and those guys who don’t have much mileage in downhill, the slalom guys, will find it tough. And the slalom is not super demanding, so for downhillers that’s good news.”

“I like the sound of that actually,” Nyman joked.

In addition, the famous Golden Eagle jump on the lower part of the course is particularly big this year.

World Cup overall champion and current tour leader Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway won the super-combi last year but was sidelined Monday after crashing off the jump in training. He was hospitalized with facial fractures and a deep wound to his buttocks and groin.

In his absence, Nyman and 2006 overall champion Benjamin Raich are favored to win. Other contenders include downhill specialists Peter Fill of Italy, Michael Walchhofer of Austria, reigning world champion Daniel Albrecht and his experienced teammate Didier Defago.

Though better known for his talent in the speed events, Nyman was the 2002 world junior slalom champion. After breaking both legs in separate accidents, he’s become an expert in downhill, which puts less strain on his legs.

“Actually my slalom has been going well,” Nyman said. “I don’t have the same confidence I have in the downhill but I kind of just go.”


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