December 17, 2016

VAL GARDENA, Italy (AP) Steven Nyman and his girlfriend were lying under the stars admiring the view atop one of the Dolomites' most majestic mountain passes when they decided to open the doctor's email.

The couple is expecting a baby girl in June.

Slightly more than 12 hours after finding out the sex of his baby, Nyman celebrated the news with a third-placed finish in the Val Gardena downhill Saturday despite a hair-raising landing off the biggest jump on the high-speed Saslong course.

With his grandmother having died of cancer three days ago, Nyman's mind has been racing as fast as his skis lately.

''For her to pass and knowing she has moved on and then figuring out that I'm going to have a little girl,'' Nyman said. ''It's been emotional.''

Nyman's girlfriend, Charlotte Moats, may have had the toughest test of emotions, watching from the finish as Nyman lost control over the legendary camel jump, which launches skiers into the air for nearly 90 yards - almost the full length of a football field.

Nyman flailed his arms to regain his balance and sat all the way down on his skis to soften the landing and somehow restore control.

''It made me roll down the windows and gave me a good scare,'' Nyman said. ''I let out a good grunt when I landed and pulled myself back up. ... I was just telling myself, `You got to keep pushing.' The first thing in my mind was that the knees didn't pop so things are OK. `Let's keep going, keep charging. Let's go, let's go, let's go.'''

All three of Nyman's wins have come in Val Gardena. The Sundance, Utah, skier still needs one more to match Austrian legend Franz Klammer and Italian standout Kristian Ghedina for a record fourth downhill victory on the Saslong.

''I'm old but I'm healthy and happy and I have several more years in me,'' said Nyman, now the oldest member of the U.S. team at 34. ''My lady thinks I can go till 2022. I don't know about that, but we'll see.''

Either way, Nyman will forever be linked to this race and this area - perhaps that's why he and Moats decided to wait until they got to Alto Adige to open the baby news.

''We were lying under the stars last night at the top of Passo Sella and we're like, `Let's open this email,''' Nyman said. ''And we opened it and we're like, `It's a girl!' ... And then we're like, `Let's name it Sella.'

''I don't know if that's going to (work out) but we might name it Sella. Or it could be Ronda, (for) Sellaronda,'' Nyman said, referring to the 40-kilometer (25-mile) loop of interconnected trails around the Sella Range.

In a race won by Austria's Max Franz, the U.S. Ski Team had a strong showing with Travis Ganong finishing seventh and Bryce Bennett coming eighth with the No. 54 bib.

''I know I have speed to be faster than anybody, but it's having all the splits add up at the end. It's close, it's super close,'' Ganong said. ''Hopefully I can build from this and look at the video and figure out why I lose time in one section of every race and hopefully not do that next race and hopefully win.''

Up next for the speed team is a set of races in Santa Catarina, where Ganong posted his only win two years ago.

Then it's off to the downhill classics in Wengen, Switzerland, and Kitzbuehel, Austria, in January, followed by the world championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in February - a major test before next season's Pyeongchang Olympics.

First, though, Nyman is inviting the entire team to his apartment in Innsbruck, Austria, for Christmas - Ganong and his girlfriend, the Canadian skier Marie-Michele Gagnon; two-time Olympic super-G medalist Andrew Weibrecht and his wife and 10-month old daughter; plus some coaches and members of the U.S. women's team.

It's going to be quite a change from the usual holiday of just the guys hanging out in Bormio.

''We got a big Christmas tree and it's just nice to create that environment,'' Nyman said. ''Usually as men we have a very depressing Christmas. We don't find it all that depressing but the women do. So they're aching to make it a little more festive.''

Nyman, for one, has plenty to celebrate.

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Andrew Dampf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/asdampf

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