World Cup skiing: Nyman wins downhill; Squaw’s Travis Ganong 13th
VAL GARDENA, Italy — There are some downhill courses that suit certain athletes. For American Steven Nyman, Italy’s Val Gardena is that course.
Nyman etched his name once again into the annals of skiing history on Friday as he won his third career downhill in one of his sport’s most challenging races. Travis Ganong of Squaw Valley was the only other American in the points, finishing 13th.
Coming off a podium finish at the Audi Birds of Prey in Beaver Creek, Nyman ripped to a 1.51-second lead from the lucky seven start position, and hung on to take a .31 second margin over World Cup downhill leader Kjetil Jansrud of Norway. Dominik Paris of Italy was third.
Val Gardena’s Saslong downhill is the jewel of the Dolomites — a classic on the World Cup. It’s the December ritual for the men, offering a long and challenging piste with dark December shadows, nasty early-season snow and the fabled camel bumps coming into the finish.
It has taken its toll on many a ski racer over the years and few have mastered it like Nyman, who became only the fourth athlete to win three times.
“I’ve always felt comfortable here from the first day I arrived in 2005,” Nyman said.
Nyman’s secret in Val Gardena goes back to his days as a junior racer in Utah, where he learned how to ski terrain. As an early-season race, the Saslong throws terrain at you from start to finish.
“This year the snow is so thin, you’re feeling the fields underneath the snow. It’s just rally all the way down the hill,” Nyman said. “You have to keep driving over that to show it who’s boss or it will show you who’s boss. A big thing here is projecting your body over those blind rolls and jumps and going over them with confidence. If you go over with hesitation, that’s lost speed.”
Weibrecht leads U.S. team
On Saturday the men took to a snow-hungry super G course in Val Gardena resembling a luge track, where Andrew Weibrecht was the top U.S. athlete in 19th place.
Both Ted Ligety and Nyman did not finish, while Ganong was the only American other than Weibrecht to finish inside the points, in 26th. Jared Goldberg finished 38th, Squaw Valley’s Bryce Bennett was 41st, Tommy Biesemeyer 42nd, Truckee’s Tim Jitloff, 51st and Squaw Valley’s Marco Sullivan 55th.
Kjetil Jansrud of Norway took his third win of the season — nailing the line so many men missed, and beating the field by almost half a second. He earned another 100 World Cup points to grab the overall lead. Dominik Paris of Italy took second and Birds of Prey super G winner Hannes Reichelt of Austria was third.
It was a tough course, causing men to pinball over the famed camel bumps, before sending them directly into the gates after it. There, they were getting late, sending many off the course—including Ligety, who skied out on an icy spot near the finish.
Ligety storms into 2nd
Ligety put together a phenomenal second run of giant slalom on Sunday, skiing from seventh place to second in Alta Badia, Italy. Jitloff was the next highest U.S. finisher, finishing 12th.
It was a rough track, with the men tackling nasty ruts and icy bumps. If the racers didn’t stay on their line and on the outside ski, the course spit them out. But those types of courses are perfect for Ligety, who — after a disappointing seventh place on the first run — used his classic angles to shred the hill, coming down the second run ahead of the field by over a second.
The only one who could beat Ligety was Marcel Hirscher of Austria. After winning both tech races in Are, Sweden, Hirscher was hungry for another victory. He took the Alta Badia win by almost a second and a half. Thomas Fanara of France was just off Ligety’s pace by .03 seconds to take third.
Brennan Rubie, Truckee’s Mark Engel and David Chodounsky did not qualify for a second run.
Hirscher now leads Ligety by 74 points in the World Cup GS standings. Ligety sits in fourth place in the overall, behind Kjetil Jansrud of Norway, Hirscher and Dominik Paris of Italy.
The men’s tour now heads to Santa Caterina, Italy — near Bormio — for a holiday downhill on Dec. 28.