BORMIO, Italy — Skiing star Bode Miller (Franconia, NH) led a U.S. trio into the Top 20 by finishing eighth in Wednesday's Audi FIS Alpine World Cup downhill in Bormio. Utahn Steven Nyman of Sundance finished 11th and World Cup rookie Travis Ganong (Squaw Valley, CA) was 20th, while Austria's Michael Walchhofer clinched the victory.
Known amongst the racers as one of the most strenuous, if not the most strenuous course on the World Cup circuit, the U.S. was up to the challenge. Nyman scored his best World Cup result since Val Gardena in 2008, while Ganong raced to a career-best finish and his first World Cup downhill points.
Despite having teammate Marco Sullivan (Squaw Valley, CA) injured in Tuesday's downhill training, Miller, Nyman and Ganong showed their focus and strength on race day. Erik Fisher (Middleton, ID) and Andrew Weibrecht (Lake Placid, NY) were also on the injured reserve list with injuries sustained prior to Bormio.
"All three guys kept their focus and cool with Sully in the hospital," said head coach Sasha Rearick. "Virgil [Chris Brigham, Head Speed Coach] did a great job keeping the guys focused on the task at hand."
Nyman led the surge, kicking out of the start gate first onto a clean course. He proved he is 100 percent healthy, crossing the finish line with a career best 11th in Bormio.
"I was actually pretty psyched with starting first because all last year I never drew in the top seven and had a clean course. Starting one I could see what I needed to do and was feeling more and more confident in myself," said Nyman.
"Here it doesn't really matter. Some courses you need to have a really run-in track and it would be a lot faster. But here it's all technical and all turny. It was nice to go and get it out of the way. I didn't have to wait around and I didn't have to think," he said. "I actually showed up to the start late and pretty much ripped my clothes off, stepped in my bindings and went."
Miller was the next U.S. man to push out of the gate laying it on the line in true Bode Miller fashion. Showing he's still one of the fastest guys on tour, Miller was nailing the top sections before a few mistakes cost him some time bumping him back to eighth in the overall results.
"Bode skied some parts well, but had some mistakes. He did lose some time before San Pedro. His ski hooked up on him and he had to release his ski and at the bottom he leaned in," said Rearick.
Bormio first-timer Ganong took to the challenging hill next, despite admitting Bormio was the stop about which he was most nervous all season.
"This hill is crazy. It's a real deal downhill, bumpy, fast, icy and dark. It's just tough skiing from top to bottom and I came through today," said Ganong. "In my mind this is the toughest hill, but it turns out I really like it. It's really turny and suits my more technical style."
The U.S. Alpine Ski Team's speed crew will return stateside for a break before heading back to Europe for the second half of the World Cup circuit. Part two will kick off with the famed Lauberhorn races at Wengen, Switzerland Jan. 11-14.
The next stop on the World Cup tour is Munich, Germany Jan. 2, where World Cup giant slalom leader Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) will be representing the U.S. in the parallel slalom city event.
Audi FIS Alpine World Cup
1. Michael Walchhofer, Austria, 1:59.66
2. Silvan Zurbriggen, Switzerland, 1:59.74
3. Christof Innerhofer, Italy, 2:00.02
4. Patrick Kueng, Switzerland, 2:00.26
5. Georg Streitberger, 2:00.62
8. Bode Miller, Franconia, NH, 2:00.92
11. Steven Nyman, Sundance, UT, 2:01.31
20. Travis Ganong, Squaw Valley, CA, 2:01.93