Alpine

Steven Nyman: King of the Saslong?

by
Megan Harrod
2016-12-15 18:07
 

VAL GARDENA, ITA (Dec. 15, 2016) – There’s a crown to be regained this weekend, and Steven Nyman (Sundance, UT) is the man looking to reclaim the title of King of the Saslong once again. This place feels like home to Nyman, complete with that unmatched Italian hospitality, clean and fresh air, a challenging track and incredible vistas.

Val Gardena is a classic track on the Audi FIS Ski World Cup circuit and—at 3,446 meters long—offers a long, challenging downhill with terrain to boot. To say Nyman likes the Saslong is an understatement. Of the three times he’s won in his career, they’ve all been here in Val Gardena in 2006, 2012 and 2014—all even years. 2016 is an even year, too. He’s reached the podium seven other times, all in downhill, including four last season. That podium streak last season was a record for the American Downhillers.

The Dolomites are a sight for sore eyes. Towering over the track, the Saslong offers up spectacular views—and this year it’s offering to the men is an impeccable, smooth surface and lots of big terrain. Yes, the terrain is big…and this year many said it was too big. Yesterday Nyman played the role of athlete representative, taking feedback from fellow competitors who claimed it was too big. That’s a tough position for Nyman to be in, because he loves this track and he loves big terrain. The terrain has been minimized but the excitement remains big. Buckle up—it’s going to be a wild ride.

The Attacking Vikings will be defending their Val Gardena podium sweep in the super G last season, led by Aksel Lund Svindal, and Svindal will also be defending his Saslong downhill crown. They’ll be tough to beat, but the American Downhillers have shown strength in training runs and have a good chance of spoiling the Norwegian party.

“Two years ago when I won, I was really skiing well in the training runs and beating everybody by over a second, and I said ‘I can’t relax, I’ve got to go hard,’” Nyman said. “Because I know (Kjetil) Jansrud is going to hammer, and he did. He was the only guy close to me in the race - three-tenths out. So I know come race day (the Norwegians) are going to push even harder, so I have to step my game up.”

In the final training run on the Saslong, Nyman finished second behind Norwegian Kjetil Jansrud, by just five hundredths. The Austrians are feeling the heat to perform after a sub-par performance in Val d’Isere, and Matthias Mayer or Max Franz—who both had solid training run results—could be their knights in shining armor.  

Andrew Weibrecht (Lake Placid, NY) has said in the past that this track is not his favorite, though last season he surprised himself when he snagged fifth place in the super G.

“It’s just great to be back racing on tracks that we know,” Weibrecht said. “Val d’Isere was kind of a crapshoot, so it’s just nice to be back here where some of the experience I’ve built up actually pays off a little bit.”

Bryce Bennett surprised everyone at Val Gardena last year when he started 57th and finished sixth (Getty-Alexis Boichard)

Also keep an eye on 24-year-old Bryce Bennett (Squaw Valley, CA), who wowed the remaining crowd when he rocketed from bib 57 to sixth last year in the downhill. In the final training run today, Bennett showcased the same clean and solid Saslong style as he moved from bib 60 to ninth. He could quite possibly have a bibbo of epic proportions once again this weekend. Travis Ganong (Squaw Valley, CA) and Jared Goldberg (Holladay, UT) have also been strong and solid in training runs.

Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) is looking forward to getting onto the course in Alta Badia where he also has three victories. The men have a parallel GS in Alta Badia Monday then head to the classic night slalom venue of Madonna di Campiglio Thursday night before a short holiday break.

On the women’s side, a deep and talented crew of speed skiers led by the consistent and strong Laurenne Ross (Bend, OR) will take on an alpine combined, downhill and super G in Val d'Isere, then heading over the mountain to Courchevel for a giant slalom on Tuesday before a holiday break. The women will race a giant slalom and slalom in Semmering just after Christmas. After her win Sunday in Sestriere, Mikaela Shiffrin (Eagle-Vail, CO) will sit out the speed events but will be back in action for the Courchevel giant slalom.

Universal HD and NBCSN will cover all of the action this weekend. Live streaming of both races will be available on NBCsports.com/live.

Road to Aspen Audi FIS Ski World Cup Finals

The road to World Cup Finals in Aspen will take some twists and curves this weekend as both Austrian Marcel Hirscher and Shiffrin will be challenged for their leads as the respective tours take to the speed side before coming back with technical races going into the holidays.

QUOTES
Andrew Weibrecht

It’s just great to be back racing on tracks that we know. Val d’Isere was kind of a crapshoot, so it’s just nice to be back here where some of the experience I’ve built up actually pays off a little bit.

The whole start to the season was really tough.  For us, that’s part of the process of getting into the season. You have Lake Louise, then Beaver Creek … it’s great to go from an easy track to a harder track with super nice snow then take it over here (to Europe). Bummer, but we’re picking it up and finding our pace, so it’s all good!

Steven Nyman
I love it here. I’ve always had great results here, but I’ve also crashed a lot here. This hill has treated me well, but she’s also knocked me down we I’ve got a little too confident in myself. The people, the food, and the air … it feels good.

Two years ago when I won, I was really skiing well in the training runs and beating everybody by over a second, and I said ‘I can’t relax, I’ve got to go hard.’ Because I know (Kjetil) Jansrud is going to hammer, and he did. He was the only guy close to me in the race - three-tenths out. So I know come race day (the Norwegians) are going to push even harder, so I have to step my game up.

Val Gardena/Alta Badia – Men: 
Bryce Bennett (Squaw Valley, CA) – SG, DH
David Chodounsky (Crested Butte, CO) – GS, PGS
Tommy Biesemeyer (Keene, NY) – SG, DH
Ryan Cochran-Siegle (Starksboro, VT) – SG, GS, PGS
Tommy Ford (Bend, OR) – GS, PGS
Travis Ganong (Squaw Valley, CA) – SG, DH
Jared Goldberg (Holladay, UT) – SG, DH
Tim Jitloff (Reno, NV) – GS, PGS
Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) – GS, PGS
Steve Nyman (Sundance, UT) – SG, DH
Brennan Rubie (Salt Lake City, UT) – SG, GS, PGS
Andrew Weibrecht (Lake Placid, NY) – SG, DH

Val d’Isere/Courchevel - Women:
Stacey Cook (Mammoth Lakes, CA) – AC, DH, SG
Breezy Johnson (Victor, ID) – AC, DH, SG
Anna Marno (Centennial, WY) – DH, SG
Megan McJames (Park City, UT) – GS
Alice McKennis (New Castle, CO) – DH, SG
Laurenne Ross (Bend, OR) – AC, DH, SG
Mikaela Shiffrin (Eagle-Vail, CO) – GS
Resi Stiegler (Jackson, WY) – GS
Leanne Smith (North Conway, NH) – DH, SG
Jackie Wiles (Aurora, OR) – AC, DH, SG

BROADCAST AND LIVE STREAMING (times EST)

Fri, Dec. 16
4:30 a.m.  – Val d’Isere women’s combined – downhill – nbcsports.com – LIVE STREAM
6 a.m. – Val Gardena men’s super G – nbcsports.com – LIVE STREAM
8 a.m. – Val d’Isere women’s combined – slalom – nbcsports.com – LIVE STREAM
5 p.m. – Val Gardena men’s super G – UniversalHD
6:30 p.m. – Val d’Isere women’s combined – UniversalHD

Sat, Dec. 17
4:30 a.m. – Val d’Isere women’s downhill – nbcsports.com – LIVE STREAM
6 a.m. – Val Gardena men’s downhill – nbcsports.com – LIVE STREAM
4 p.m. – Val d’Isere women’s downhill – UniversalHD
5:30 p.m. – Val Gardena men’s downhill – UniversalHD

Sun, Dec. 18
3:30 a.m. – Alta Badia men’s giant slalom – run 1 – nbcsports.com – LIVE STREAM
4:30 a.m. – Val d’Isere women’s super G – nbcsports.com – LIVE STREAM
6:30 a.m. – Alta Badia men’s giant slalom – run 2 – nbcsports.com – LIVE STREAM

Live streaming available on NBCsports.com/Live and the NBC Sports app, which is available on the iTunes App Store, Google Play, Windows Store, Roku Channel Store, Apple TV and Amazon Fire.