LAKE LOUISE, Alberta (Nov. 24) - Two-time Olympian Marco Sullivan (Squaw Valley, CA), who battled back from knee injuries for two years, earned the first podium of his World Cup career Saturday. Sullivan barreled through biting cold and tricky light to finish second in the opening Audi FIS Alpine World Cup downhill of the season.
Canadian Jan Hudec, silver medalist in downhill at the 2007 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships but never previously a podium skier in World Cup races, won the race with a time of 1:42.79. Sullivan started No. 2 and finished No. 2, covering the 2.9K course in 1:43.03. Steven Nyman (Provo, UT) was 15th with Bode Miller (Bretton Woods, NH) 20th and Scott Macartney (Kirkland, WA) 29th.
"I've been skiing fast in the last few weeks of the prep period and had some good training runs. I was ready to throw down a good one despite the tough conditions," Sullivan said. "My Nordicas (skis) were on fire today.
"I knew I was having a solid run but I wasn't sure where it would stack up because the conditions were so variable. I was almost two seconds ahead of No. 1. But, then when Hudec came down - Jan and I have raced together for years - and was first, I knew being two-tenths away from him would be good.
Sullivan out-skied poor light, bad winds
"He won yesterday's final training, so I felt good about being close," Sullivan said. "I was telling someone he and I have had a lot of knee surgeries between us, so it's even nicer for us to be 1-2 on the podium. And, really, I think there's more for me. This isn't it."
An overcast sky created tricky visibility for the first 30 skiers and intermittent winds added to the problematic situation.
"Snow conditions stayed fantastic all day, but we had a good feeling before the race for how the guys would do," said DH Head Coach Chris Brigham.
"When Marco ran it was pretty flat light, but he skied tremendously. He took advantage of the opportunity. Races up here are usually super tight, so you have to be clean."
After tearing ligaments in his right knee during a DH training crash at Beaver Creek early in the 2004 season, the podium was another huge step in Sullivan's comeback. He underwent nearly two seasons of knee surgeries leading to the 2006 Olympics. A year ago, he was fourth in a downhill at Val Gardena, Italy, just one-hundredth of a second away from the podium. Saturday, Sullivan would not be denied.
"Sets a good platform..."
"This (podium) was certainly worth the wait. It sets a good platform for me for the season," he added. "I'm heading to Beaver Creek and I'm ready to keep it rolling.
"I told him in the finish this was a payback for last year in Norway when he skied so well in poor conditions and then they stopped and finally restarted, and he didn't ski as well. What goes around comes around. This was a nice payback for Marco," the coach said.
Brigham also was pleased with the other top U.S. showings. "Stevie Nyman had a good day. He made a mistake up on the flats, and that cost him coming into the turnier sections. 'Scotty Mac' had some trouble at the bottom...and for T.J. (Lanning - Park City, UT) to start 62nd and come in 32nd was fantastic. He went from 70th to 25th yesterday in training and he's the real deal."
The snow drought in the Rockies forced organizers, who had made snow to cover the course, to drop the start about 150 meters to get it off the windswept, steep section at the top of the run. "It was about 15 degrees, but it felt colder with the wind blowing," Brigham said.
The opening weekend for the men's tour in North America concludes Sunday with a super G before they head to Beaver Creek, CO. Sullivan's podium also earned him a start in the SG; other U.S. starters Sunday will be Miller, Nyman, Macartney, Lanning and defending NorAm downhill and super G champion Erik Fisher (Middleton, ID), who crashed in the Saturday's DH.
The next men's World Cup stop is the Charles Schwab Birds of Prey races Nov. 29-Dec. 2 with a super combined, downhill, super G and giant slalom.
For complete results:www.fis-ski.com/uk/604/1228.html?cal_suchsector=AL_id=23412