Foreign exchange: Norwegian, US racers share tips for speed
BEAVER CREEK, Colo. (AP) — The Norwegians reveled in teammate Kjetil Jansrud’s super-G win last weekend at Lake Louise.
So did the Americans. Not to the same extent, obviously — “they win a lot,” downhiller Jared Goldberg cracked — but Jansrud’s speedy performance at least showed the U.S. men’s squad they’re on the right track.
The two countries have become partners in training the last few seasons. The Norwegians bring a wealth of experience, knowledge and another level of seriousness to the hill. The Americans add a top-level training facility, more coaches on the course to relay information and different level of playfulness.
In the end, the two nations speak precisely the same language — speed.
“Having them around, it’s awesome,” said U.S. racer Travis Ganong, who finished 1.87 seconds behind the top time turned in by Otmar Striedinger of Austria during a World Cup downhill training session Wednesday. “Having the Norwegians on the hill elevates our level. When we’re training with our group, we joke around and have a lot of fun. We’re not always pushing that hard. It’s nice to bring in the Norwegians to help us push hard. Hopefully, it helps them, too, to have this cooperation.”
It definitely does. Especially early in the season, when the Norwegians gain access to the U.S. ski team’s speed center at Copper Mountain, Colorado — a well-manicured 2-mile track where they can cruise up to 80 mph. Along with it, U.S. coaches who can relay information.
“When we wanted to work with someone, we wanted to work with the Americans,” said Norwegian standout Aksel Lund Svindal , who was third in training at Beaver Creek. “It tells you something about the way they work — it’s fairly similar to the way we work. It just fits better together than some other teams.”
Even on training days, Svindal, Jansrud and the rest of the small but tight-knit Norwegian group treat everything like a podium spot might be on the line.
“We have high standards of what we bring to training as well as with energy,” Jansrud said. “We go hard.”
No exceptions. And break training protocol — you will get warned.
“That’s probably why the Americans think we’re a little (uptight), they see us calling each other out,” said Svindal, who’s recovering from a left thumb injury that forces him to tape the pole to his glove. “It’s important to stick to the training program. If you don’t, you lower the standards.”
This is an intensity the Americans are taking to heart.
“The Norwegians take care of the tiny details very well. Being surrounded by that, you pick up on that,” American Bryce Bennett said. “Not that their team is way better than ours or we’re way worse, but it’s a good team to be paired with.”
The American downhiller squad did a very Norwegian-like thing this summer: A group of them got together for a bonding session in Malibu, California. They were put through a series of activities run by former Navy SEALs. One of the tasks was carrying logs over their heads and up a sand hill, then locking arms as they waded into the surf to get pummeled by waves. They did this over and over.
“They try to get us to feel uncomfortable and be able to push past that uncomfortable state,” Goldberg said. “We got our butts kicked. But it was beneficial.”
The collaboration with the Norwegians could help the U.S. unlock more speed. The Americans are searching for their first World Cup downhill victory since Ganong in January 2017.
Meanwhile, the Norwegians are notoriously fast on the hill in any race: Svindal and Jansrud have a combined 126 World Cup podium finishes and nine Olympic medals.
Keep up with them — along with Aleksander Aamodt Kilde — on training days and it’s a safe bet that it could show up on race day.
That’s the aim, anyway.
“I’m fast in training against those guys, but World Cups are a different beast. It takes time to catch up,” Goldberg said. “But you can work on your own stuff and say, ‘OK, this is how the best guy in the world would go over this terrain, I probably should consider that way, too.’ It eventually will lock into your skill-set more.”
One word of caution: Don’t try to be like the Norwegians.
Learn, yes. Overhaul your style, no.
“Having the Norwegians around, it can be highly beneficial and can be also confusing to some guys,” American Steven Nyman said. “We’re skiing with Aksel. We’re skiing with Kjetil. Their accomplishments are so supreme. They’ve done so much. To learn from them is super important. But don’t change who you are.”