Adrien Theaux of France took top honors Wednesday after the first day of downhill training at the Birds of Prey Audi FIS World Cup race week at Beaver Creek. Theaux finished in 1:42:33, but much of the day’s attention was focused on American Steven Nyman and Swiss Aksel Lund Svindal, who were both back in action in Colorado after injuries this past January.
Svindal, winner of three Beaver Creek World Cup downhill titles and 33 World Cup races overall, finished ninth on the day. Beaver Creek is just his second event since surgery in January to repair a detached meniscus. He finished third in last week’s downhill in Lake Louise and fifth in Super G. He says he’s not feeling too much pressure to return to form immediately, other than the pressure he’s putting on himself.
“That pressure is mostly because you want to do well. Being on the podium in World Cup races is fun, so that’s where you want to be,” said Svindal following training. “But I feel pretty good. It’s not perfect, but every day is another race. The other guys can go training, they don’t have to rest to get swelling down in the knee, so it’s not a perfect setup, but it’s working ok.”
Also working well for Svindal are the conditions of the Birds of Prey course, which he believes to be the best on tour. “The snow is absolutely beautiful,” he said. “I would say the course crew in Beaver Creek is probably the best in the world. I feel like we always have perfect conditions.”
Nyman, who finished T-37 on Wednesday, agreed the Birds of Prey course is living up to its hype as one of the best on the World Cup, and noted he was pleased with his first day of training.
“It’s fantastic,” said Nyman, who has finished on the podium three times at Beaver Creek. “The snow is super firm, reactive. I think because there is not a lot of fresh snow, there’s some bumps and little rattles in some sections. It’s a pleasure to ski. It’s so fun to be here.”
Nyman said the decision to race Super G on Friday on downhill on Saturday is still up in the air, but Wednesday provided positive feedback. He said he’ll wait until after second day of training on Thursday before making the call.
“Just to get down and ski well is a step forward,” said Nyman, who suffered a complete tear to his MCL and PCL and a partial tear to his ACL this past January. “That’s what I’m aiming for right now, and we’ll see how it goes.
“It’s more the load on my knee, and it might be good to just give it a rest Friday and hop in on Saturday, but I still need to make the call,” he explained. “I skied fine today but it wasn’t, like, super charging. The places where I was like, ‘I need to charge,’ I would just wait a little then I’d get in my tuck. That extra gear wasn’t fully there.”
Although he admits he wishes his return was progressing faster, he is taking heart in advice from coaches, techs and trainers who continually remind his to keep his eyes on the prize: PyeongChang, Korea, and the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
“The goal is the Olympics and that’s the main focus for now, so we’ll see,” said Nyman. “Everyone is just saying, ‘Take your time. Once you’re comfortable and feel like you can go, then go. Don’t push it, don’t risk it.’ Downhill is dangerous … I’m learning as it goes.”
Race week continues Thursday with the second day of downhill training beginning at 11 a.m. MT.
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