Marco Sullivan, American vets ready to charge into Birds of Prey
BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — Don’t look now, but the U.S. Ski Team has depth in the men’s speed events.
In a year when Bode Miller is saving his mots justes for NBC and its family of networks, the Americans still boast Travis Ganong, Steve Nyman, Jared Goldberg, Marco Sullivan and Andrew Weibrecht, a lot more than in past years.
But depth doesn’t do much good without results, and that’s the task for Sullivan and Weibrecht this weekend as Birds of Prey racing begins Friday with the downhill at 10:45 a.m. and on Saturday at 11 a.m. with the super G at Beaver Creek.
The green hats return
The last time Sullivan came to Beaver Creek, he didn’t race. The Squaw Valley skier didn’t make the cut to represent the U.S. Ski Team during the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in February.
That was a slap in the face for the Sullivan.
“ I missed out on racing. I had to kind of re-evaluate. If I was going to keep racing, I wanted to be competitive, not just on the sideline,” Sullivan, 35, said. “I was re-motivated and had a couple of top 10s near the end of the year, and that was great. It got me fired up and ready for the summer.”
Sullivan had a late-season surge, taking sixth in the Garmisch, Germany, downhill and then eighth in Meribel, France, in the World Cup Finals. With those results, Sullivan surged into 19th in the downhill World Cup standings.
He felt good in training during the summer. Sullivan was ready to go last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta, a venue at which he’s comfortable and has been racing since his Nor-Am days, and he promptly finished 47th and 41st.
“It was kind of a beating, to be honest,” Sullivan said. “I didn’t have fast split the whole week, training runs and everything. But that’s ski racing. You have to have a short memory, get my stuff dialed in and go onto the next week.”
Sullivan and his team have been working on his boots.
“For a ski racer, boots are crazy important, like tires on a car,” he said.
“I had new pair of boots that I was real fast on during the summer. Summer skiing, the snow’s a bit softer. It’s pretty mellow compared to what a World Cup race is. I got up there and my boot setup was really aggressive, so I was over-turning and on my edges all the time.”
With those adjustments, Sullivan hopes to capture his results of old here at Beaver Creek. And that should please his green-hatted fans, who are due in town Friday.
Asked and answered
Weibrecht, from Lake Placid, N.Y., has an interesting paradox in his career. He has two medals (silver in 2014 and bronze in 2010) in super G at the Olympic, but still doesn’t have a World Cup podium in his career, which dates back to 2006.
He has a pretty good stock answer for that question.
“I feel like all the people who ask me that are people who don’t have two Olympic medals,” Weibrecht said.
Insert rimshot here.
The issue for him has been primarily health. He’s maintained himself in the top 30 in super G throughout, but has been outside that cherished number in the downhill.
This is the catch-22 of ski racing. To get World Cup points it’s easiest to do so with a top-30 start position, yet cracking that top 30 is hard to do when you’re racing with a bib number in the 50s.
Weibrecht broke onto the scene, charging from the No. 53 bib in the 2007 Birds of Prey downhill to 10th. You can’t count on that all the time.
“It’s super helpful,” Weibrecht said of a top-30 start. “It’s always a cleaner course, a nicer course to ski. That’s a big goal of mine this year to get back into the top 30 in downhill.”
He’s No. 31 right now in the rankings in downhill after finishing 24th last weekend in Lake Louise.
“It’s a course I’m historically terrible at,” he said. “To come through and have a decent result like that is good.”
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Several Truckee-Tahoe skiers will vie for Olympic medals next month.