Steven Nyman: King of the Saslong? |

Steven Nyman: King of the Saslong?

Utahns aim to leave mark on weekend

Submitted by USSA News Bureau

There’s a crown to be regained this weekend, and Steven Nyman (Sundance, Utah) 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, New York) 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.”

Also keep an eye on 24-year-old Bryce Bennett (Squaw Valley, California), 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, California) and Jared Goldberg (Holladay, Utah) have also been strong and solid in training runs.

Ted Ligety (Park City, Utah) 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, Oregon) 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, Colorado) will sit out the speed events but will be back in action for the Courchevel giant slalom.

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