US Skier Steven Nyman on a roll heading into world champs
Just before the season, American skier Steven Nyman made a $20,000 investment to bankroll a 30-something downhiller he believed could still be one of the best in the world.
Maybe a risky expenditure to some, since this skier has been besieged by injury after injury in recent seasons, leading to erratic results and loss of funding by the U.S. Ski Team.
But Nyman strongly believed in himself. So he dug deep into his own pockets this season to pay for his expenses and prove he could climb back on top.
His stock is now soaring.
Nyman captured a World Cup downhill race in Val Gardena, Italy, in December. Just before that, he took third during a downhill in Beaver Creek, Colorado, site of the world championships that begin next week and where he will be one of the favorites.
''I feel like I'm 20 again,'' said Nyman, who's from Sundance, Utah, and will turn 33 in two weeks. ''I don't feel all that old right now.''
His secret? Simple, old-fashioned rest. The easygoing Nyman needed to relax as intensely as he trained, just to keep everything in proper balance.
''You're only as strong as your weakest link,'' Nyman explained. ''So if I'm not rested enough, I'm going to start breaking down. Then I can work and work and work, but I'm not going to be that strong. Rest is a key ingredient.''
With a few days off to unwind before world championships, Nyman seriously considered a quick jaunt to the beaches of San Diego to do, as he described, ''some surfin', some chillin' and some relaxin'.''
Although he didn't make the trip - he spent time hanging out with family in Utah instead - it shows how receptive he is to logging more lounge time. That wasn't always the case.
''I'm not one to slack and I probably worked too much,'' he said of seasons past. ''I just didn't rest enough.''
His body paid the price. Over his career, he's endured a bulging disk in his back that pinched a nerve and required him to wear a custom-fitted cast for six weeks. He also had a badly bruised shin and underwent operations on both knees.
But the injury that concerned him most was a torn left Achilles tendon, which sidelined him for the 2011-12 season.
''I was like, `Is this it?''' said Nyman, who's made three Olympic teams, including Sochi last February. ''I've given my whole life to become one of best. To quit? That's not my style.
''The whole reason I didn't quit was I still believed I had it in me.''
He did, too. Just took some time and some tweaking of equipment, along with overhauling his training program.
A little chip on Nyman's shoulder didn't hurt, either.
After years of being fully supported, Nyman failed to finish higher than 18th in any race last year, dropping him to the squad's ''B'' team for this season. With that went his funding.
''It's a dream you have your whole life, to make the ski team, and then, `Here you go. You're one of best in the world - you owe us money,''' Nyman said. ''That's tough.''
Nyman lined up donors to offset some of his early expenses. The prize money he's been accumulating is a huge boost, too, as he collected $12,429 for taking third in Beaver Creek and $35,000 for his win in Val Gardena.
Even with all of his recent success, though, he still can't secure a sponsor for his helmet - prime real estate for a ski racer.
Really, though, it's not all that big of deal to him because he's wearing a sticker to promote fantasy ski racer, a website he helped create. It's a lot like fantasy football, only instead of drafting, say, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, you can pick up Bode Miller, Ted Ligety or Lindsey Vonn. There's even an app available for the smartphone to track your lineup of skiers.
Nyman certainly wouldn't be a bad selection for world championships. He's entering the event on quite a roll after placing fifth in a difficult downhill race last weekend in Kitzbuehel, Austria. Plus, he's had three podium finishes on the challenging Beaver Creek course in his career.
''I've never been in this good of a situation coming into world championships,'' said Nyman, whose best finish at worlds was ninth during the super-combined in 2007. ''To be able to win on home soil, now that would be so cool.''
On the Web: http://fantasyskiracer.com