February 15, 2006

New Faces Emerge As Bode Struggles

Print More

Everybody knows about Bode Miller. People say that he’s reckless, or that he’s daring; some say he is the best skier in the world.

Well, so far in Torino, he has placed fifth in the downhill, and he was disqualified in the alpine combined, which is a mix of the downhill and slalom races.

Yes, everyone knows about Bode. But not a lot of people know about his fellow American skier, Steve Nyman.

No, I’m not related to Steve. But he is one of America’s best skiers. And although he didn’t win a medal in the downhill or combined events, he did get some attention as an emerging challenger.

He may have another chance to compete next week in the individual slalom. Nyman is not among the very best in that event, so he isn’t really a top contender to medal. However, the Utah native says he doesn’t really care about getting to the podium. At least that’s what he told the media – when they finally stopped asking questions about Bode.

“I don’t really care about medals. A lot of people in America can relate to them, but it’s not about the medals,” he said. “It’s about the effort.”

Maybe Nyman doesn’t really feel that way. After all, the downhill event took place on his birthday, so maybe he was just in a carefree mood.

But I think he was sincere – after all, he looked happy just to be in Torino, competing with the world’s best.

“Anybody can medal on any given day,” the now 24-year-old said. “It was awesome just to finish, to have my name up there, to hear them say ‘Happy Birthday.”

Nyman wasn’t chosen for the downhill event until last week, when he finished ahead of other American skiers in practice runs on Thursday and Friday. He had been under the radar until recently, when he turned in an impressive fourth-place finish at a downhill World Cup event in Germany two weeks ago. It was a career-best result.

Right now, he may not have the talent of Bode Miller. Yet, this humble guy from Utah might one day do what Miller could not – win a gold medal in the downhill event.

But, it was another American, Ted Ligety, who in fact won a gold medal yesterday in the men’s combined – the event where Miller was disqualified for pinning a gate with his ski.

The combined event is called that because it includes a downhill race – which emphasizes speed – and two slalom races, which are more focused on technical skill. Ligety is not very strong in downhill – he was 32nd after that portion of the event. But he turned into two incredible slalom runs, and jumped ahead into the lead.

His win was a pretty big upset, as most people expected either Miller or one of the Austrian competitors to win the gold. But Miller ended up doing what he all-too-frequently does – disqualifying himself – while Ligety turned in a couple of near-perfect runs.

Before the Olympics, Ligety was unknown outside the skiing world – and nowhere near as famous as Bode. But now he is a gold medalist, and has become only the fourth American to win a men’s alpine skiing event at the Olympics. He did so as an underdog, and he did it without a lot of prior attention or fanfare.

And now Bode will have to share the spotlight – now that America has won gold in an event where it has often struggled. For an American skiing team that thought its chances for victory were running out, it was the unheralded teammate that came through.

It’s those kinds of stories – not all the media hype – that make the Olympics great.

Ted Nyman is a Sun Staff Writer. Fast Times will appear every other Wednesday this semester.

Archived article by Ted Nyman