Slalom keeps Americans off podium
BEAVER CREEK – Even with a top-10 finish, good downhill runs and four skiers earning points, the Americans felt they could have done better in Thursday’s World Cup super combined at Beaver Creek.”I thought we’d have three guys in the top 10 today,” said Steve Nyman, who was 13th. After three racers finished in the top 15 for the downhill portion, things were looking good for the U.S. But Bode Miller, who had the top downhill time, skied out, Ted Ligety had a sub-par run and Nyman slipped a few places.”It’s pretty disappointing,” Ligety said. “My slalom has been in quite a struggle right now because I broke my hand and it’s been hard to train, but I didn’t think it would be that bad.”Marco Sullivan, a speed skier, took 21st, while Jimmy Cochran, a tech skier, was 27th. Scott Macartney and Andrew Weibrecht missed gates on the downhill, while TJ Lanning suffered a broken hand and cuts on his face from a high-speed crash.Flip-flop
Ligety, a tech skier, was upset that after he had the 15th-best downhill run, he came in with the 12th best slalom run.”It kills me,” Ligety said. “I lost by two seconds to (super combined winner) Aksel (Lund Svindal). I was beating him by two seconds last year sometimes.”After breaking his hand training this fall, Ligety hasn’t been able to train much slalom, and still has problems racing.”The biggest part is I kind of mentally hold back a little bit because the main way I get back on the course when I start making big mistakes is I have that pole plant, and I don’t have that right now,” Ligety said. “If I have a mistake, I’m out of the course. I have no recovering mechanism right now.”Despite his troubles with slalom, Ligety has been making strides in downhill.”There are definitely some positives. The downhill is great. It’s good to have that run for some confidence later in the year in downhill, but I mean, slalom has always been my bread and butter event. When I’m suffering there, it’s definitely a little worrisome.”As the second American on the downhill start list, Ligety looked to Nyman for a course report.”I saw his run in the live feed … and he nailed the course report,” Ligety said. “It’s good having someone like that tell us where the speed was.”
Ligety also benefited from better lighting than Wednesday’s training run.”It’s good light, and when I’m not used to training, it’s so huge for me to be able to see where I’m going and be more comfortable,” he said.Icing itEven with a few slip ups, Nyman recovered to post the seventh-best downhill run. Nyman’s slalom run was 18th-best and dropped him out of the top 10.”I skied solid in training, and I’ve been fast. I just didn’t have the speed today,” Nyman said. “It was good to get a solid run down, but, 13th? I expect to be on the podium on one of these (super combined races) this season.”Nyman said he picked up a good rhythm during his slalom run, but got slowed in a few sections.”The problem is there are a lot of downhillers skiing as well as slalom skiers, so the ruts are not in the right places, and it can kind of take your feet in the wrong direction,” he said.
Though normally not a slalom skier, Sullivan used Thursday’s race to get in some extra practice in front of a large contingent of home-town fans.”I was standing in the start gate and was thinking, ‘There’s no way I’m going to finish,’ Then, I made it three-quarters of the way down and said, ‘Oh yeah, I may make it,'” Sullivan said. “It was just recovery after recovery, but it was fun. It was the first slalom I’ve skied in a while. It was kind of another training day for me, so to finish was awesome.”Training take twoIn his World Cup debut, Weibrecht had a much-improved run compared to his downhill training from Wednesday.”I got in the driver seat and attacked today,” Weibrecht said. “It felt great. I was nailing what I wanted to do, and hit the spots I wanted. I was pretty intimidated yesterday, but I made it down in bad light and bumpy conditions … and today I felt confident and went for it.”Cold temperatures and a welcomed absence of snow hardened the Birds of Prey course for Thursday. Many of the Americans used the super combined as another day of downhill training, and to adjust to the higher course speed. “It came at you a lot faster from the top to the bottom, even though we started kind of lower,” Macartney said. “It took one turn to get up to speed.”
Hidden StacheWith temperatures in the single digits in the morning, racers again taped their faces to prevent frostbite. When Ligety made his way into the finish area after his downhill run, he greeted reporters with a tape mask that included a drawn-in mustache.”In the start I had the idea of getting a marker and (making a mustache), so I just looked at the reflection on one guy’s goggles and colored it in,” Ligety said.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail Daily, Vail Colorado CO