Friedman fires out all-time best
BEAVER CREEK – For a few golden moments, 24-year-old Bryon Friedman of the United States was on top of the world. He was the fifth racer and the first American down Friday’s Birds of Prey downhill course and he finished in 1 minute, 40.75 seconds to arrive there – among a screaming home-turf crowd – on top of the world. And even when his teammate Bode Miller shot across the finish line almost a full second faster to replace him, Friedman was the first to saunter out into the finish corral smiling to congratulate him.Friedman, from Park City, Utah, has been skiing for the U.S. team for three years and recently graduated from Dartmouth with a degree in history. His best World Cup finish prior to Friday’s was last year’s 10th place in the Chamonix, France, downhill event.
Frenchman Nicolas Burtin was the first victim of Friday’s Birds of Prey downhill, and he slid off course and DNF’ed immediately before Friedman’s run. As if that wasn’t enough to put his nerves on edge, Friedman was still recovering from a crash sustained in last weekend’s race in Lake Louise, Alberta, and just wanted to get everything behind him.”To be quite honest, I was just looking forward to getting this week over with,” he said. “I’m still banged up from my crash. I was psyched it turned out the way it did. The crowd going wild was amazing. I can’t tell you how excited I was coming through the finish. It’s just something that you dream about. The excitement I felt, the electricity, was amazing.”The experience was reminiscent of last year’s U.S. Championships downhill race in Alyeska, Alaska. Friedman raced down to lead the race, then stood watching as nobody, not even Miller or Daron Rahlves, came close to matching his time. In Alaska, with his finish time of 1:38.96, he beat Rahlves by almost two seconds and Miller by almost 3.5. On Friday, however, it was a different story.
First Miller’s name and finish time (1:39.76) replaced his in the No. 1 slot, Then, Switzerland’s Bruno Kernen knocked him down to No. 3. Didier Cuche bumped him out of the podium realm, and as the race wrapped up, Friedman ended up No. 7. Was he disappointed? Not at all.”Right now, I’m looking at a personal best,” he said. “I can’t complain. You never know until everyone comes down if it’s your personal best. Every time they were faster than me on the top, I couldn’t really gauge it. I was a little shocked I was so fast on the bottom.”One by one, even those racers who followed Friedman down the hill and were much faster than Friedman on the first half of the course, couldn’t find a way to catch him at the bottom. Friedman found a way to make up the time he lost on the upper flat section of the course after the Golden Eagle Jump and through the more technical sections.When asked how he was possibly able to make up so much time – he hit the second interval at 55.10 seconds, much slower than anyone else who finished in the top 10 – he wasn’t sure himself.
“That’s a good question,” he said. “You might want to talk to my technician.”Friedman’s teammates, however, were not surprised by his skiing or by his result.”When he skis normal, he’s in the top 10,” Miller said. “He’s phenomenal. It’s a great breakthrough for him. On a day like this, a momentum-building day, it’s awesome for the team. For our team, it’s important because our energy level is much higher than what we’re showing in results for the most part. Daron and myself are the only ones who seem to ski about where we are on the World Cup. Bryon did it today.” Sports Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or firstname.lastname@example.org.