Veteran downhiller Steven Nyman (Sundance, Utah) suffered an injury in last Thursday’s FIS Alpine World Cup training run in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, which means he will miss the upcoming 2018 Olympic Winter Games in South Korea. Post-event assessments by a medical team in Garmisch confirmed that Nyman sustained an ACL tear on his right knee, which brings his season to an end.
This is not the first time the dark, bumpy Kandahar track has ended Nyman’s season. Last year, he had a season-ending left knee injury – ACL, MCL, and PCL tear – in Garmisch when he crashed into the safety netting. He battled his way back through a grueling rehab process and took a conservative approach to his comeback, starting his first World Cup in Val Gardena, Italy in December. Steadily building towards PyeongChang, Nyman snagged top three training run times and splits before finishing 15th in last weekend’s downhill in Kitzbuehel prior to returning to Garmisch.
Nyman, who had just been named to his fourth Olympic team, has 11 FIS Ski World Cup career podiums, including three victories at Val Gardena, Italy. With a third place under his belt at the Olympic test event at Jeongseon, Nyman was expected to be a contender in the downhill at the Olympics.
“I was really looking forward to not only representing our country at my fourth Olympics but trying to contend for a medal,” Nyman reflected. “Unfortunately, a year to the day from my left knee injury, I’ve learned that I’ve completely torn the ACL on my other (right) knee. The good news is that this injury is much more straightforward than last year, and will be much easier to come back from.”
A leader on and off the mountain, Nyman will be missed in PyeongChang, says Head Coach Sasha Rearick. “This injury is a huge loss to the ski racing community of America and the U.S. Ski Team. He’s the leader of our family; he’s been the leader of the downhillers for a long time,” Rearick said. “I think we take a lot of pride in all of the work he has done, and the leadership he has shown to the team about how to work hard and take it step by step over a 12-month period and actually be in a place where he was ready to compete at the elite level.”
In contrast to last year, this year Nyman sustained a simple ACL tear, and none of the other ligaments or cartilage are injured. He will turn 36 in February during the Olympic Games, and he will celebrate a day early by watching his teammates ski the downhill in PyeongChang on February 11th. While his short-term focus is on cheering for his teammates in South Korea, Nyman will be back on the mountain as soon as he is physically able.
“If all goes well I should be back on snow for regular summer training camps, and in full form by the start of next season,” Nyman promised. “My focus is now on next year’s World Cup season and the 2019 World Championships [in Are, Sweden]. I’ll be cheering loudly for my teammates and all the athletes in Korea, and I know the whole American Downhiller crew has the potential to be right in there. I’d, of course, like to thank my sponsors, coaches, teammates, friends, and family for all of their support. Go Team USA!”
Rearick echoes Nyman – and does not doubt for a second that he will return, and he will return stronger, “The whole team is rooting for Steven. We know he’s going to be back on the World Cup. We know he’s going to be back competing under the American flag. It’s going to be some time, but we’re looking forward to the moment he’ll be back training and racing at full speed with the team. We wish him the very best.”
Rearick continues to bring optimism into the Games with the rest of the American downhill squad, including two young athletes who have been stepping up: Bryce Bennett (Squaw Valley, Cali.) and Jared Goldberg (Holladay, Utah).
“Steven paved the way for the guys. His spirit and his energy will be will be missed, but it is with us all of the time, and it has really inspired our two young downhillers, Bryce Bennett and Jared Goldberg,” noted Rearick. “Goldberg is showing us tremendous speed, skiing smart, clean, aggressive runs while Bennett has been showing consistency and his progress has been phenomenal. A big part of that is seeing the steps that Nyman made in coming back from his injury the last 12 months. Nyman has been helping both of these guys.”
Always thinking beyond himself and seeing the silver lining, Nyman wrote on Saturday after the race, “On another note, I’m super proud of Bryce! Crushed today. That didn’t look easy and he skied super well ¾ of the way down. Easily top 10 without the bobble.”
The future is bright for both Nyman and the downhillers, and Bennett and Goldberg will be two to watch in PyeongChang, not only according to Nyman, but also Rearick.
“Fortunately, the track in Jeongseon is one we’re familiar with, and we’ve gotten to train on it more than other teams, and Bennett and Goldberg are both skiing well,” assured Rearick. “The challenge for them will be to challenge each other as we go into the Games and support each other in a way that Steven supported them. Bode [Miller] and Daron [Rahlves] did it best – but we, as American downhill racers, pride ourselves on that family tie to support each other, challenge each other, and push each other.”