American Downhillers vs. Attacking Vikings

Megan Harrod
2016-03-11 16:48

KVITFJELL, Norway (Mar. 11, 2016) – The conditions in Norway are looking prime and the stage is set for an American Downhiller vs. Attacking Viking showdown on home turf for the Norwegians. But can the American Downhillers sneak in there for the upset on race day?

In both Thursday and Friday’s training runs, a pair of Attacking Vikings and an Italian came out on top, with Italy’s Peter Fill clocking the fastest time on Thursday followed by Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt-Kilde and Kjetil Jansrud, and Jansrud on top Friday followed by Fill and Kilde yet again. But don’t count out those American Downhillers just yet.

Travis Ganong took fourth in Friday's training run. (Getty Images/Cornelius Poppe)

Steven Nyman (Sundance, UT) – who was featured in this week’s What Makes a Champ feature – finished fifth fastest in the first training run. On day two, Travis Ganong (Squaw Valley, CA) – who returns to Audi FIS Ski World Cup action after healing a nagging knee injury – was the top American in fourth, with teammate Nyman on his heels in fifth.

After a short trip home to see his new daughter, Andrew Weibrecht (Lake Placid, NY) finished 15th and 17th in the training runs and will be one to keep an eye on this weekend. Weibrecht’s challenge will be Kvitfjell’s first carousal turn – if he nails that, it could be a landmark finish.

Tomorrow’s downhill start will be a milestone for 16-year veteran Marco Sullivan – his 105th downhill start – the most of any American. Bode Miller (Franconia, NH) has 104 downhill starts. Last year “Sully” finished 12th on the challenging Olympiabakken track, which Head Coach Sasha Rearick says is the “best prepared he’s seen this place.” Combine the hero conditions with the way these guys have been skiing lately and it’s not out of the question that they’ll stack the top 10.

Steven Nyman grabbed two fifths in training. (Getty Images-Cornelius Poppe)

Be sure to watch Thomas Biesemeyer (Keene, NY), who has consistently scored points in his comeback season – including a career best 11th place in super G at Beaver Creek. The men will ski a downhill and super G in Kvitfjell. Former U.S. Ski Team legend Daron Rahlves, who has had success in Kvitfjell in the past, sent a simple message to the boys for the weekend: “Find the flow and take over Norway!”

Over in Switzerland, the women will tackle a super G and alpine combined in Lenzerheide, where the track has also been perfectly prepared and the ladies were amped after their hill free ski on Friday. Laurenne Ross (Bend, OR) and Stacey Cook (Mammoth Lakes, CA) will have to send it and push all the way from start to finish in order to come out on top.

Andrew Weibrecht skied solidly in training. (Getty Images-Cornelius Poppe)

Ross, who is now in the first seed in super G, has made a steady progression to the podium this season, landing in the top 10 in the last six races she’s finished. When NBC asked about how it feels, Ross laughed, “I’m in the top seed?! I didn’t know that. It feels good.” With more confidence than ever before, Ross is gunning for the top step of the podium this weekend.

Kvitfjell Starters (DH, SG)
Thomas Biesemeyer – DH, SG
Travis Ganong – DH, SG
Steven Nyman – DH, SG
Marco Sullivan – DH, SG
Andrew Weibrecht – DH, SG

Lenzerheide Starters (SG, AC)
Stacey Cook – SG
Laurenne Ross – SG, AC


Steven Nyman
[On the conditions, and Thursday’s training run]
It’s perfect. The weather is perfect. I think with last week’s snow, they’ve done a great job clearing it off and the piste is just really nice to ski – just very smooth. You can do whatever you want on the snow and they’ve built some cool little terrain features so you have to be active the whole way down and pick your way through some of those lines, but it’s a lot of fun. The air is in the right place and it’s not too big in zones, but it’s big where it can be big. I know I can do well here and I know I can win here, so I just have to refine my line. Today I went a little too straight in some sections, but I wanted to try it out and see if it was fast.

Travis Ganong
[On his knee, and how it’s feeling]
My knee hurts a lot. I only take one inspection, one race run and the rest of the time is spent doing therapy. Yesterday was the real test to see how it would feel on the World Cup hill and today I thought “I’m going to push a little more and see” and it’s feeling okay. I can, for sure, push, and I think it’s okay for me to race. I just need to survive the last six days or so, and then the season is over. It’s a lot of work – but it’s worth it to be here and be racing again.

[On the conditions, and Wednesday’s training run]
I’ve had a lot of success here in the past. I think I’ve been top five for the last three or four years in a row here, so I just knew I could come here and do something. The course is really smooth and really flowy, and steep to flat, steep to flat, steep to flat, so for me it’s a perfect hill because you have to nail a couple of technical turns and carry the speed on the flats and carry the flow all of the way down. If you miss the timing on a roll or a little jump, you’ll land hard and you’ll kill your speed. So it’s all about finding the transitions of the landings and juicing those and carrying your speed.

Laurenne Ross
[On how it feels to be in the first seed in super G]
It feels amazing. It’s been one of my goals for a really long time. It makes me feel like I’m starting to belong on top and I’m excited to be amongst the seven best super G skiers in the world.

[On what she attributes her recent consistency and success]
I’m learning how to ski safely and fast simultaneously which has been something that’s been really hard for me in the past. I’m gaining experience and I feel like I’m getting more comfortable on my skis and becoming more grounded and I’m just feeling really good about racing.

Broadcast and Live Streaming (times EST)
Saturday, Mar. 12
4:00 a.m. - Women’s super G, Lenzerheide - LIVE - NBC Sports Live Extra
5:30 a.m. - Men’s downhill, Kvitfjell - LIVE - NBC Sports Live Extra

12:00 p.m. - Women’s super G, Lenzerheide - Universal HD
1:30 p.m. – Men’s downhill, Kvitfjell - Universal HD

Sunday, Mar. 13
5:00 a.m. - Women’s alpine combined super G, Lenzerheide - LIVE - NBC Sports Live Extra
6:15 a.m. - Men’s super G, Kvitfjell - LIVE - NBC Sports Live Extra
8:00 a.m. – Women’s alpine combined slalom, Lenzerheide - LIVE - NBC Sports Live Extra

2:30 p.m. - Men’s super G, Kvitfjell - Universal HD
4:00 p.m. - Women’s alpine combined, Lenzerheide - Universal HD

Men’s training run 1
Men’s training run 2

Men’s downhill
Women’s super G