Kyle Negomir marks return to Europe with two encouraging downhill results in Val Gardena￼
Special to the Daily
Kyle Negomir seized the opportunity in his first two World Cup downhill starts since a severe, season-ending training run crash in Val d’Isere, France, in February 2021.
Making his first descents on the classic Saslong downhill course in Val Gardena, Italy, Negomir finished 49th from start position 60th on Saturday, and was 47th two days prior, from bib number 62.
“It’s a different level coming back to World Cup downhill — there’s not a lot of training that can prepare you for that,” Negomir said, in the finish area after Saturday’s race. “This is probably the most fun ski race that I’ve ever done in my life here,” he added, with a big smile.
Negomir has persevered through an arduous rehabilitation and recovery from the incident in France that resulted in MCL and ACL injuries, broken bones in his hand, and a separated shoulder. His performance over recent days on the 2.2-mile Italian course — loaded with jumps of all sizes and wide-ranging terrain, including the unpredictable lower Ciaslat section — in Val Gardena was highly encouraging.
“The body is feeling good for the first time in two years. I’m able to go out and ski every morning without pain and all of a sudden, it’s fun again,” he said.
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Negomir, 24, who raced super-G’s at recent World Cup events in Lake Louise and Beaver Creek, only received the green light to start in downhill on the classic Italian course, after three-time champion Steven Nyman was ruled out due to a hand injury sustained in Beaver Creek on Dec. 3. Negomir grabbed the seventh and final start position that the Stifel U.S. Alpine Team was allocated.
“It sucks to get the spot through Steven breaking his hand, but I was on the right side of timing with that,” Negomir said, about the veteran racer from Utah, who triumphed on the Saslong in 2007, 2013 and 2015.
Negomir nabbed his first career World Cup points in the Lake Louise super-G on Nov. 27, finishing 23rd. In Italy, he is acting like a sponge, being in close quarters with accomplished veteran teammates like Nyman, Bennett, Travis Ganong and Ryan Cochran-Siegle.
“It’s pretty incredible to have four World Cup winners out of the seven of us racing,” Negomir said.
He is inspired by true downhillers like Nyman, Ganong and Bryce Bennett. The 6-foot-7 Bennett used his long legs like shock absorbers to conquer the Saslong in victory one year ago.
“It’s fun having these guys help me out through my first year of the circuit, going to courses for the first time that you’re intimidated by,” Negomir said.
Ganong sees the untapped potential in Negomir.
“He has raw talent and raw speed, like one of the fastest skiers I’ve ever seen, but he needs time to learn how to utilize that speed,” Ganong says. “Give him like three years and he’ll be winning races.”
The Val Gardena double downhills were only Negomir’s third and fourth career World Cup starts in the most dangerous of disciplines. He debuted in Lake Louise, Canada, finishing 53rd, in November 2019, and then was 51st on the Birds of Prey track two weeks later.
The Denver native, who recently moved to Park City, was named to the U.S. C Team in 2019. Negomir grew up skiing part-time between Copper and Loveland until he joined the Ski & Snowboard Club Vail full-time at the age of 16.
Fast forward eight years and Negomir is now receiving top-level coaching from U.S. Ski Team speed coaches Urban Planinsek, Randy Pelkey and Scott Veenis.
“The improvements will come with the mileage in downhill — he’s a naturally gifted technical skier, especially in super-G,” Veenis says about Negomir. “He just needs more time on the tracks, especially with the gliding fundamentals and jumping.
“It’s about learning the venues and getting better each training run to build confidence to increase the speed by increasing the risk. These tracks just take experience.”
The coaching advice especially rings true for the upcoming three classic courses that Negomir expects to challenge — the Stelvio in Bormio, Italy; Lauberhorn in Wengen, Switzerland; and Hahenkamm in Kitzbuehel, Austria.
“I’m planning on racing all of the World Cup super-G’s and downhills this season,” Negomir informs. “Bormio and Kitzbuehel are the most dangerous and rowdy, so maybe those will come down to training runs, seeing how I do.”
Negomir can thank U.S. teammate Sam Morse, who shockingly delivered the best overall performance of the team in Val Gardena. The Sugarloaf, Maine racer charged to tie for 10th and 15th in the two races. Like Negomir, he started near the back of the pack.
“Sam skied so well the other day which created another spot, so that’s really cool for all of us,” Negomir said, referring to start allocations for upcoming downhill races.
Negomir shared a celebratory bear hug with teammate Morse in the Val Gardena finish area on Saturday. As the two less-experienced, young guns on the U.S. speed squad, along with Eric Arvidsson, the toughest tests of the sport, Bormio, Wengen, and Kitzbuehel, await.
“We have a good group of young guys really pushing it and it’s fun to be a part of it,” Negomir said.