Can Steven Nyman and Marco Sullivan pull it off at Beaver Creek and beyond?
The three wise men of the U.S. Ski Team were once Bode Miller, 38; Marco Sullivan, 35, and Steven Nyman, 33.
But with Bode out for the winter, the grizzled-veteran mantle of the U.S. speed squad falls on the shoulders of Sullivan and Nyman.
On the eve of the Beav, we recap where the old guys are at.
After promising results as a young racer on the World Cup, Sullivan saw his career take a few unwanted turns after a string of injuries sidelined him for two years. He finally returned to the circuit in 2005, and has since managed four podium finishes, including a World Cup win in the 2008 Chamonix downhill.
Sullivan then kicked off last season with a top-5 finish at the season opening downhill in Lake Louise — followed by the death of his uncle and longtime coach, Mark “Sully” Sullivan on Dec. 7, 2014.
Marco then managed to find the top-30 only once before the Vail/Beaver Creek World Championships.
Mid-season soul searching helped Sullivan turn his season around with top-20 finishes in the last four World Cup downhill races of the season, including two top-10s.
“Marco just puts a smile on my face,” says U.S. Men’s Team Head Coach Sasha Rearick. “When he’s out there, he’s having just a blast. He’s enjoying himself, and he’s doing it for the right reasons — the love of the sport.”
Coming in to this season, Sullivan has been working with a new physiotherapist, John Rumpeltes, on lingering back pain from disks herniated in a 2009 crash.
“I feel like I’m moving in ways I haven’t since I was a lot younger,” says Sullivan of Rumpeltes’ work. “Ski racing is a lot about moving your hips and getting those angles.”
Connecting with the younger guys on the team has also rejuvenated Sullivan. “As an athlete, all of us are somewhat selfish because we’re up in the start gate alone,” he says. “Now I take a lot of pride and happiness when I see my teammates do well and achieve their goals, as well. If they can find the focus and find the drive that I feel like I have now when they’re in their early 20s — the sky’s the limit.”
Like Sullivan, Nyman blasted out of the career starting gate but has been hampered by injury after injury, leaving many, at one point, wondering if he would ever return to form.
Those doubters were silenced last season, when Nyman captured his third career World Cup downhill victory at Val Gardena, Italy, and ultimately finished eighth in the season’s downhill standings.
Nyman has also turned a negative experience — feeling awkward upon joining the U.S. Ski Team many years ago — into a positive one, fostering teamwork and cooperation.
“As one of the old guys on the team, I really take it upon myself to welcome the young guys,” Nyman says. “When I was young and trying to make the U.S. Ski Team, I had a hard time kind of fitting in. It was tough — ‘Who am I? Where am I?’ It wasn’t the most welcoming environment, and that’s something that I’ve tried to establish lately.”
Nyman may even extend that personal mission beyond the ski team. In the same week he started training runs down Birds of Prey, Nyman was named an athlete ambassador for SOS Outreach which provides opportunities for at-risk youth across the country to engage in adventure sports.
“SOS has a great mission and excellent track record of serving at-risk youth in which I am proud to be their first-ever athlete ambassador to foster inspiration for these kids.”