Nyman rolls back the years to win in Val Gardena again

Six years after he last won on the World Cup and five since he last podiumed, Steve Nyman is back on the top step of the podium. In a race that many predicted would not happen due to snow and cloud, Nyman benefitted from a break in the weather and starting later.First it was Dominik Paris to show their hand, then after a forty five minute break for the think cloud to clear, Kjetil Jansrud went faster. Just as it looked as if the Norwegians would dominate the podium like they had in training with Jansrud just edging out Svindal by five hundredths, Erik Guay came down to take the lead then Rok Perko upset the apple cart and took the lead. Then came Nyman.

Steve Nyman has had a chequered career since winning in Val Gardena in 2006 and then podiuming in Beaver Creek in 2007. Since then there have been injuries to his achilles that caused him to miss a season and latterly he broke two ribs in Copper Mountain just last month. “I hate flying so I will be staying in Europe until after the World Cup Finals and doing a lot of training. I have missed a load of training in the last few years and this is crucial for me,” explained Nyman after the race.

“If you start early you have no chance today,” French star Johan Clarey commented and then cryptically added “I do not think that we have seen everything yet!” How right Clarey was. The weather caused delay upon delay and the local organisers did not want to have to record two cancelled races in a row – every chance was being given to holding the race. First it was delayed to see if the weather window would open. Down to the Super G start, maybe a two run race, these were all being considered. Yet with every delay the chances of holding the race were getting slimmer and slimmer.

Finally at two o’clock the race got under way. Yet after 11 racers and Italian Dominik Paris in the lead, the weather closed in. After 30 seconds down the course and just after the first jump, the cloud made racing too unsafe. Sceptics felt that this was it and the race would be halted. Yet 45 minutes later and two more forerunners headed down. We were back on.

Kjetil Jansrud had done some amazing training times and was looking good, the lead was growing with each split and by the finish he was ahead comfortably. When his teammate Aksel Lund Svindal came down and posted a time five hundredths slower, despite having been faster at the first split, this looked like being game over. It was a race for third place. Guay did not read the split and after hours of playing computer games on his phone, Guay nailed the downside of Ciaslat going at a shade under 100KMH and on through to the finish to grab the lead.

Guay knew that if the weather turned for the better the later runners would start to prosper and kept an eye on the times of racers coming down. There was still over half the field to go. “When Perko came down and knocked me off the lead, I was not really surprised but when Nyman came down I was watching all the way to the last racer,” the Canadian reflected. This was a great result for the Canadian team as they are in process of rebuilding: Manny Osborne-Paradis placed in the top ten and they have Jan Hudec and John Kucera also on the way back from injury.

For Rok Perko this was his first World Cup podium and seeing the green light as he crossed the line to take the lead was what he felt ‘living the dream.’ With Tina Maze blazing a trail for the Slovenia female team, Perko and the rest of the men are no playing catch up.  The mystery of Val Gardena was living up to its reputation! Perko did not know that the course conditions were improving he admitted after the race.

And still the weather improved and while Nyman had seen Perko take the lead, this gave him an inkling that conditions were improving and he knew he had a chance to put one in there. Nyman is a great glider and used this to great effect to generate speed from the off. This is where he had his one previous world cup win and he was playing catch up in terms of extending his career. With Marco Sullivan having been on the podium in Canada, the American team is on a roll, not quite as dominant as their female team but despite having no Miller to contribute to the points, they have more wins than the Austrians and Swiss combined!

With each racer coming down the opportunity for a career best result was there. Nyman had taken his opportunity from number 39, Perko from 35. Werner Heel came down from 52 to post 6th fastest time and Dutch racer Marvin van Heek then stormed into 8th from bib 53. “This was a crazy race,” described a legend of the hill Kristian Ghedina. Silvano Varettoni from Italy placed 9th with bib 51. Usually the crowd start leaving after the 30 have been down but this time they stayed. They knew there was a chance for every racer to post a time.

As for Jansrud, he took fourth, on another day this could so easily have been the win he so deserved and craved.