Birds of Prey Training Bodes Well for U.S. Men

2014-12-04 14:41

BEAVER CREEK, CO (Dec. 4) – It’s been an exciting couple of downhill training days in Beaver Creek, Colorado, with the U.S. men skiing fast and preparation for the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in full force. Though the World Championships is still a ways away, its energy is lingering in the air. An incredible new stadium has been built, and the crew, like always, has done a great job prepping for the weekend. The track is buttery smooth and the weather looks perfect for Friday’s Audi Birds of Prey downhill.

On day one of downhill training, the U.S. men stacked it into the top 30: Steve Nyman (Sundance, UT) snagged fifth, Jared Goldberg (Holladay, UT) 10th, Travis Ganong (Squaw Valley, CA) 21st, Wiley Maple (Aspen, CO) 29th and Bryce Bennett (Squaw Valley, CA) 30th. Nyman praised the course crew and the conditions at Birds of Prey. “As usual, they prep it better than anyone in the world. The snow is just epic. They do such a good job,” said Nyman. “The hill is so steep and so demanding, yet the snow is so perfect—you can really just risk it. Everybody is pushing harder and harder just to make it happen.”

Day two of downhill training was just as good as the first for the Americans: Travis Ganong grabbed fourth, Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) battled his injury to a huge seventh place, Steve Nyman finished 9th, and Jared Goldberg 14th. Ligety—known for his giant slalom dominance—was the story of the day, as he hooked a gate with his hand during training two weeks ago and had surgery on his left wrist. Ligety mentioned his range of motion is nearly 100 percent, and training with one pole has helped his skiing.

Ted Ligety gets some sick angles during Tuesday's downhill training at Audi Birds of Prey. (Getty Images - Tom Pennington) 

How does Ligety feel about Birds of Prey, where he’ll be skiing downhill, super G and giant slalom events? “The course is feeling good. It’s always prepared so awesomely here. It’s so much fun to ski this hill,” said Ligety. “It would take a miracle run for me to podium in downhill, really, but I think I have a good chance in super G and giant slalom, so I’ll just be skiing good top to bottom.”

One of the younger U.S. Ski Team members, Jared Goldberg, will be another one to keep an eye on at Birds of Prey, with two top-15 results in this week’s training runs. Alpine Director Patrick Riml has flagged him as an up-and-comer who could have a breakthrough season. After yesterday’s run, Jared reflected on Birds of Prey. “This is one of the most exciting downhills of the year, and it’s a really difficult one too. Americans feel comfortable on this hill, and Europeans don’t – so it’s really our wheelhouse,” said Goldberg.

The first two training days went smoothly, so Friday’s downhill training run was cancelled, allowing the men to do their own training or have a much-needed rest day.

It’ll be a big U.S. men’s field this weekend with Ted Ligety, Wiley Maple, Travis Ganong, Steven Nyman, Jared Goldberg, Bryce Bennett, Tommy Biesemeyer (Keene, NY), David Chodounsky (Crested Butte, CO), Mark Engel (Truckee, CA), Tommy Ford (Bend, OR), Tim Jitloff (Reno, NV), Nolan Kasper (Warren, VT), Brennan Rubie (Salt Lake City, UT), Marco Sullivan (Squaw Valley, CA), and Andrew Weibrecht (Lake Placid, NY) competing.

The race starts at 10:45 a.m., but if you can’t be at the race in Colorado tomorrow, be sure to watch it at 10:30 p.m. EST on NBC Live Extra.

Ted Ligety
All of us have skied the hill so many times, it doesn’t change anything for World Champs. It’s an indicator, sure, but it’s not the end-all-be-all. We're still months away from the World Champs, so it's not really a huge concern. 

It’s going to be great having it here. They always do an awesome job prepping the hill here, so it’s a treat to race here because of that. You’d be surprised that the mass majority of our World Cup races are prepared pretty badly, whereas here they do an awesome job. Everyone loves coming here because of that. Plus, the fact that it’s here on home soil and the Euros have to live out their duffle bags like we have to all of the time—it evens the playing field a little bit. 

Marco Sullivan
Lake Louise was a great way to start the season. It’s always been a great place for me. I’ve been on the podium a couple times up there. I was just nipping the guys there by tenths of a second and only ended up like four tenths back. I feel like I could be right in the hunt with those guys this week. I have to just keep it rolling.

It’s definitely a more technical course—a lot steeper with harder snow and more turns. If I can be solid on the turns on the top pitch and carry that speed down to the bottom, I’ll be good. That area is more in my wheelhouse with big jumps, more downhill style. I gotta nail the top and do my thing on the bottom. 

Sasha Rearick, Men's Head Coach
I'm super stoked on how all of the guys are working together – staff and athletes – to find the most speed out of the Birds of Prey trail. The guys are working hard and putting the effort in the right areas.

Downhill training, day one
Downhill training, day two


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