Nyman of US seeks to defend win; Miller wants 1st
VAL GARDENA, Italy -- American Steve Nyman wants to prove his victory last year was no fluke, Erik Guay aims to avenge the weather-related loss and Bode Miller is looking for his first downhill win at Val Gardena heading into the World Cup weekend.
Guay thought he won the race last year until a drastic weather change helped later starters on a shortened Saslong course, with Nyman earning the win. Rok Perko of Slovenia was second and Guay relegated to third.
Nyman's only other career downhill win was here in 2006, and the long gliding sections and big jumps suit his 6-foot-4 frame.
"I have long legs and terrain is a big thing," Nyman said. "A lot of the other countries, I don't think jump as well as we jump. We train that as kids a lot. A lot of guys want to knock the jumps down and we're kind of like, `Why are you knocking the jumps down?'
"I've always felt good and comfortable in those scenarios. Ever since the first day I raced this course, I felt like I could do well here."
Miller won the super-G in Val Gardena in 2006 but has never won the downhill, with his best finish second in 2008.
"You can do what you can do here, but the light and the wind play huge factor," said Miller, carrying his son as he walked back to his motor home. "I've skied well here a lot of times, but this one requires a little more luck."
Miller lost more than 20 pounds after taking last season off to recover from left knee surgery. While he finished second in a giant slalom this month in Beaver Creek, Colo., he has yet to break the top 10 in a speed event this season.
"I don't think the weight is a good thing for the speed events, especially here," Nyman said. "I think with less weight, he's not going to get as tired in races like Bormio and Kitzbuehel. But Wengen is so flat that could be pretty tough. But we'll see."
American Ted Ligety will not race in Val Gardena, training instead in nearby Alta Badia for Sunday's giant slalom on the Gran Risa.
Guay is looking forward to another shot at the course.
"Last year in my mind I had a victory here. I think I skied a victory and the weather changed. Not to take anything away from Steven or Rok Perko but that's how I look at it," Guay said after leading downhill training Thursday ahead of Aksel Svindal and Manuel Osborne-Paradis.
"All I can do is ski to my potential Saturday and take some chances, in a smart way, then anything is possible," the Canadian said.
Weather could be a factor again, with snow forecast overnight into Friday when racing begins with a super-G, an event Svindal has won twice, including last year.
The downhill Saturday is the first of the European classics that also include Wengen, Switzerland; Kitzbuehel, Austria; and Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany -- all of which have been World Cup stops since the 1960s.
Austrian great Franz Klammer and Italian great Kristian Ghedina share the record with four downhill wins each on the Saslong.
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Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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