Olympics looming bit larger for some than others | SteamboatToday.com

Olympics looming bit larger for some than others

John LaConte
jlaconte@vaildaily.com

BEAVER CREEK — While Steven Nyman was unsure of whether he'd compete on Saturday, Dec. 2's Birds of Prey downhill — on Thursday, Nov. 30, he pulled out of the race — one thing he is certain of is he wants to compete in the Olympics.

Indeed, the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February are looming larger in the minds of some than others.

Austria's Hannes Reichelt said Tuesday, Nov. 29, that the main thing that will force him to focus on the Olympics is the fact that the World Cup season takes a break for the Games.

"For me, it's more focus on the World Cup," Reichelt said. "For the Olympics, I just think about that when it's the end of January. Then, it's the focus more on the Olympics."

Askel Lund Svindal, himself an Olympic gold medalist, expressed similar sentiments.

"I think about it when (asked) about it," he said of the Olympics on Tuesday. "But I'm pretty focused on what's going to happen here this weekend."

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LONG ROAD AHEAD

Nyman started thinking about the 2018 Games right when he injured himself in January of 2017.

After finding out if he had torn three different ligaments in his right knee, he said among his first thoughts were "Will I be recovered for the 2018 Games?"

"It's a tight timeline to try to get back for the Olympics, that's what's really tough about (the injury)," Nyman said. "A lot of my injuries have been at the early point in the year, and this was pretty much February. Everybody I've talked to says you finally start feeling 100 percent about a year out, after the injury."

That one-year mark will fall right as the Games are set to begin. In coming back, Nyman said "This is the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life."

COMPETITION FOR SPOTS

Regardless, Nyman has seen the Pyeongchang course, and likes what he saw.

"The moment I got there, I really enjoyed the snow, for one, it's very Colorado-esque," Nyman said. "And the hill has a lot of steps and terrain and movement that you have to be clever with and invest (in) your turn beforehand to make it pay off. I really saw what I needed to do when I was there, it was super cool."

For several racers on the U.S. Team, getting to the Olympics is going to get competitive.

"I think super-G is our strongest event, and that's my best event but that's the same for six other guys," said New York's Tommy Biesemeyer. "It's nerve racking, I'm definitely thinking about it. I should make the Olympics, I want to make the Olympics, but there's so much internal pressure to get it done."

American downhiller Travis Ganong said knowing if he's indeed going to the Olympics is the only way to relieve the pressure Biesemeyer referenced.

"It takes a lot of pressure off once you like earn your spot on the team," Ganong said. "You don't want to wait until the last race before the Olympics and still not know if you're going."

With every race leading up to the Olympics doubling as an Olympic qualifier, the World Cup, for many, is itself a constant reminder of the Olympics.

"Hopefully, after this weekend, I can be in that spot," Ganong said.

The FIS Birds of Prey World Cup races start Friday, Dec. 1, with a super-G at 10:45 a.m.

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