Steve Nyman reflects on Beaver Creek 2015 as he wraps career in Aspen
Veteran will make final World Cup start on Saturday in Aspen
Steven Nyman and family set off from their home in Park City, Utah on Thursday morning, making the roughly six-and-a-half hour, 355-mile drive to Aspen, Colorado.
A long journey? Not exactly, considering that the veteran U.S. ski racer has been traveling the globe, competing in World Cup races for the past 20 years of his life.
Nyman, 41, will make his 214th and final World Cup start on Saturday in Aspen, concluding a lengthy career defined by determination and perseverance but filled with highs and lows and numerous injuries.
For a competitor who won three World Cup downhill races, stood on 11 podiums, represented his country at three Olympic Winter Games and competed across five world championships, Nyman says that his downhill showing at the Beaver Creek 2015 World Championships was one of his finest moments.
“My performance on that day under that sort of pressure was really meaningful to me on home snow at a home world championships,” Nyman said, recalling the race. “Even though I was fourth and missed the podium by a couple of hundredths, that was one of my proudest moments.”
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Starting bib No. 10, Nyman attacked the 1.7-mile ‘Birds of Prey’ downhill course full throttle on that Feb. 17 Colorado morning, but ended up just three hundredths of a second out of the medals.
“Performing at that level was really cool — I haven’t had the greatest success at Olympics and world championships,” Nyman added.
Swiss Patrick Kueng won his first world title, navigating the track in 1:43.18, while Nyman’s U.S. teammate Travis Ganong charged to silver, only one-tenth of a second ahead of him. Kueng’s teammate Beat Feuz narrowly edged Nyman for the bronze medal.
All of the medalists were later starters, kicking out of the gate after Nyman.
“I don’t want to say that I would have won the world championships, but that was stolen from me because of weather and wind,” Nyman said, referring to the improving race conditions.
Nyman announced his decision to retire from the U.S. Ski Team earlier this week, having continued to experience back pain and being slowed by a shattered hand, an injury suffered while racing in Beaver Creek earlier this season. His last attempt to compete came in Val Gardena, Italy, in mid-December, on the Saslong course that all three of his World Cup victories have been achieved on.
“Keeping up on my fitness has been really hard and that’s critical,” Nyman said. “I still have the thoughts that I’m capable, I can do this. It just takes a tremendous amount of work and it’s really hard for me to put that in now, so I decided to call it,” he continued, explaining his decision to retire.
“I’ve dealt with a lot of injuries — I’ve torn both Achilles, broke both legs, broke both knees,” he said, reeling off a long list of additional ACL, MCL, and PCL injuries.
Nyman and partner Charlotte are busy raising and skiing with two young daughters, Nell, 5, and Ayla, 2, another factor in his decision.
“My wife is quite happy about that and I’m fine with it too,” he said of his choice to hang up his racing skis.
It also means more time for Utah powder skiing, especially at his home resort of Sundance, and time on the slopes with the kids.
“Nell is becoming a good little skier and independent, and it’s really cool to see her develop her confidence through the sport,” he said.
Nyman will ski leisurely on the Aspen race course, attired in jeans and the “American Downhillers” denim vest, making frequent stops to say goodbye to coaches, friends and officials along the 1.7-mile America’s Downhill race slope.
“Saturday will be a victory lap — it should be a good weather day and will be pretty fun,” he said.
He has a few other plans in the works for his final trip down the mountain as an athlete.
“I want to go at the end of the pack when all my teammates are down bottom and livestream it with a GoPro on my chest, so people who can’t make it there can take that run with me,” Nyman revealed.
While plenty of fun activities are planned for the Colorado retirement party, Nyman knows that it will certainly be an emotional send-off.
“I’ll cry for sure — I’ll for sure break down,” he said.