- Alpine Skiing
Steve Nyman: Anatomy of a crash
American Steve Nyman, a self-proclaimed “surfer trapped in a skier’s body,” has been anything but laid-back on the Olympic stage, charging to a pair of Top 20 finishes in the downhill in Torino and Vancouver. As he prepares for the Sochi Games, he explained what it’s like to crash during an Alpine race.
Can you describe the sensation that you have when you're hitting top speeds during a race?
In downhill racing we hit speeds of 90 plus. This past year, a racer topped 100 miles an hour for the first time officially in a downhill. It's a funny dynamic because you're wanting to resist and you're wanting to push hard yet you want to relax because when you relax your skis just glide on the snow and release down the mountain. But if you relax too much then the mountain will throw you and then you crash.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Model Olympian: Steve Nyman
So you have to have this kind of compromise between, ‘How much am I gonna relax and how much am I gonna really push on this ski and hold my position?’ It's a wild feeling to turn this corner and see the shoot that you're going down and then just point it straight down that thing and get in your tuck and get in the most aerodynamic position you can and search for the maximum amount a speed while sliding down a sheet of ice.
What are the safety measures that are in place?
They've done a pretty good job with safety and fences and things of that nature just because we crash and we're sliding out. Usually the runs are covered with trees, and so they have to put fences all the way down just in case we go into that and it stops us from hitting the trees. It's relatively safe when we crash, but anything can go wrong on two sticks attached to your feet sliding down a mountain.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Growing up Steve Nyman
Do you remember the first time you crashed and what that felt like?
in 2004 I won my first Europa Cup which is the level below World Cup. It with in Altenmarkt, Austria. A lot of the big guns were there and a lot of the up and comers on the World Cup. They shortened the race because it had dumped a bunch of snow the night before. So they sprayed a ton of water on the hill to harden the piste up. They made it a two-run downhill, so it was a minute long run, really short sprint. I started taking off. There were a few turns, then it shoots down this compression turn.
My coach was like, ‘You gotta watch out for this turn, but you really have to stick your nose into it and drive through it or else it'll eat you up.’ I did it. I nailed it, and ended up winning the race. Then the next day, I went in there, and the hole ate my ski up. I cartwheeled and broke my leg. That's the first time I really remember staring at something and seeing how intimidating it was but knowing I could overcome that and handle it. I did, but then the next day I didn't respect it enough, I guess, and it ate me up and spit me out.
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