BEAVER CREEK, CO (Dec. 3)
- With less than 24 hours to go before one of the biggest World Cup stops of the season, the U.S. Ski Team is fired up and ready to rock the Audi Birds of Prey races in Beaver Creek. On the line is a string of six straight years of podium success.
"We're excited to be in Beaver Creek. We love it here - it's home," Men's Alpine Head Coach Sasha Rearick said. "We're happy to be here racing in front of our fans on our home hill. Beaver Creek does a great job with this event."
In town for the action is World Cup giant slalom champion Ted Ligety (Park City, UT), World Cup overall champion Bode Miller (Franconia, NH), World Cup winner Marco Sullivan (Squaw Valley, CA), Olympian Scott Macartney (Crystal Mountain, WA), national downhill champion TJ Lanning (Park City, UT) and World Cup podium performer Steven Nyman (Provo, UT)
Miller, who won downhills in 2004 and 2006 and the GS in 2005, laid down the gauntlet in Tuesday's only training run, leading by nearly a second.
The World Cup stop at Beaver Creek is the only event to have four discipline races outside of World Cup finals at the end of the season. According to Rearick, having the four races makes the event all the more exciting.
"It's fun because it brings the whole team together. We pretty much have all our World Cup guys here at one time, which always creates a lot of extra energy with all the people around," Rearick said. "It also creates a team environment. Having four events in a row is a great thing. Having them all in the same place creates a lot of excitement and makes for a great event."
The U.S. has seen a great deal of success at Beaver Creek throughout the years. For six straight seasons Americans have been on the podium in Beaver Creek, which totals out at 13 podium finishes and five wins.
With three wins and two additional podiums, Miller has had the most success at Beaver Creek out of any athlete racing the Birds of Prey this season.
The most recent accolades went to Nyman who, in addition to placing third in 2006, was second in 2008.
"I really like Beaver creek because it is such a well rounded race," Nyman said. "It's the nicest World Cup on the tour."
Ligety has also staked his podium claim in Beaver Creek, finishing third in a giant slalom in 2006 and 2007.
As far as Rearick is concerned, though, the focus is not on what the team has done on the Birds of Prey course in the past, but what they will do here this year.
"We've had success here in the past, but that's the past. Right now we need to focus on whatever makes us go fast today," Rearick said. "People do have high expectations because we've done well here, but we don't focus on that."
The World Cup racing action begins Thursday with a super combined and runs through Sunday.
In the starting gate for the super combined will be Ligety, Lanning, Sullivan, Miller, Andrew Weibrecht (Lake Placid, NY) and Max Hammer (Jackson, WY).
The combined, super G and giant slalom will be broadcast live on
. NBC Sports will televise the downhill Sunday at 2 p.m. ET. Versus will air the super combined Dec. 13 at 6 p.m. ET, the downhill Dec. 14 at 4 p.m. ET and the super G and giant slalom on Dec. 20 beginning at 5 p.m. ET.
2009 Birds of Prey races at the Audi FIS World Cup schedule:
Thursday, Dec. 4
11 a.m. - Super combined downhill
2:30 p.m. - Super combined slalom
Friday, Dec. 5
11 a.m. - Downhill
Saturday, Dec. 6
11 a.m. - Super G
Sunday, Dec. 7
9:45 a.m. - Giant slalom, 1st run
12:45 p.m. - Giant slalom 2nd run