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Road to Sochi: It's Not All About the Olympics

U.S. downhiller Steven Nyman talks the Olympics, his career goals, and mentoring the next generation.

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Steven Nyman thinks there’s a misconception about how strenuous skiing really is. “You’re basically sprinting for two-and-a-half minutes,” he says. That’s while pushing 10, 12 or even 15 Gs in some turns while managing vibrations, light conditions and staying on course.

We caught up with the Olympian to get inside his head prior to the Games.

As someone who gets to ski all year, how are you feeling? How’s your training going during an Olympic year?

Training has been really, really good. For dry land we got a new trainer, and he’s just been kicking our butts. In the gym, the men’s speed team has been training all together, so we’ve been pushing each other, and that’s translated onto the hill.

What are your goals for the season now that you’re feeling better?

My main goal is figure out how to be consistent when it comes to race results. I’ve always had a couple good races throughout the year, but have never been uber consistent. I want to perform at a high level all year long. My main goal in the future is a downhill title. No American man has ever won a downhill title, but we have the staff behind us. [U.S. Ski Team coach] Andreas Evers has led a lot of people to downhill titles in the past years. He knows what it takes to get there.

Is the downhill title a goal for this year specifically, or something you hope to accomplish in the next few years?

You see how things roll. It’s always there and would be great this year. If you look at my results last year, it doesn’t look that realistic, but I’ve set myself up to do it. I believe it can happen. There are so many pieces to ski racing—equipment has to be dialed, injuries must be avoided, and little things happen—so you never know. Also, obviously this year is the Olympics in Sochi and as an athlete, you always want a medal. This will be my third Olympics, and in the first two I never won anything, so that’s what I’ll be gunning for.

(photo by Grafton Smith)

How have you balanced pushing yourself in each race with the thought of Sochi constantly in the back of your head?

Sochi just happens. I mean, you obviously have to qualify for Sochi, and a lot of guys can get to that point, so you have to hammer in those races you need. I’m going to give it all in all of my races because there’s goals outside of the Olympics. You can’t put everything into one basket because the Olympics is a big basket, and you can get a head wind and have no chance to win.

As an older member of the team, what can you teach younger racers?

There are all kinds of little things from technique, to how to approach the race mentally. But they also teach me stuff. In their eyes everything is new, so they keep things from being too monotonous for me. They come in, and they’re so fired up. It benefits everyone and gets everyone excited. I think a lot of it is leading by example—whether that’s with approach, focus, etc.