February 10, 2006
SESTRIERE, Italy (AP by Bob Baum)—Remember the name Steve Nyman. He is, U.S. ski team coaches say, on the brink of greatness.
Calm and quietly confident, Nyman edged Marco Sullivan and Scott Macartney for the third of four spots on the U.S. men's downhill team in a "ski-off during an Olympic training run Friday.
The downhill is Sunday, Nyman's 24th birthday, and it could be a coming-out party.
"He can be fantastic, said men's downhill coach John McBride. "He WILL be fantastic.
Sullivan and Macartney will compete in Saturday's training run for the final U.S. downhill spot, with the winner joining Nyman and gold medal contenders Daron Rahlves and Bode Miller.
One day, Nyman might have that status himself.
"Each race he's getting better, U.S. Alpine director Jesse Hunt said. "Each race he's building confidence.
On Friday, Nyman finished 11th _ with Sullivan 12th and Macartney 13th overall, just 27-hundredths of a second separating them.
"My boys were awesome today, McBride said.
Nyman shares a story all too familiar to most World Cup Alpine skiers: Like Sullivan and Macartney, he's returning from serious injury.
Nyman's tale is particularly gruesome.
After winning a world junior slalom title in 2002, that spring Nyman broke his left leg skateboarding. A year later, after winning a Europa Cup race, he crashed and broke both bones in his lower right leg. After extensive rehabilitation, Nyman hurtled back, his mental edge not dulled by the crash.[pagebreak]"I haven't really got that nervous this year ever, he said. "It's kind of weird.
At 6-feet-4 and 210 pounds, Nyman has the size and strength to dominate a course.
Two weeks ago in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany _ the weekend that reigning World Cup champion Miller took off to rest in Dubai _ Nyman finished a career-best fourth in the downhill, behind a trio of Austrians.
"Every race I feel like I can get on the podium, he said. "I just need to focus and do what I can do and I think I have the ability to do that, and I wouldn't really be surprised.
Nyman was born in Provo, Utah, and lives in nearby Orem. His father is ski school chief at the Sundance Resort in the Wasatch Mountains, and young Nyman was on skis at age 2 and racing by 8.
"He's very perceptive, very laid back, works hard, McBride said. "He's very diligent about what he does with his skiing. He's a pleasure to be around, an easy guy to work with.
Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press