BEAVER CREEK, Colo. (AP) – Another dual threat has arrived for the Americans in the men’s World Cup ski circuit.

Daron Rahlves, the Americans’ best all-time speed skier, retired after last season, leaving a void that Steven Nyman, the most promising of the young U.S. downhillers, is trying to fill.

He took his first step in that direction Friday with a third-place finish in the Birds of Prey downhill race that Bode Miller won.

“I definitely think I broke into the scene,” Nyman said. “One of my goals is just to be a consistent threat on the World Cup. I want to get in peoples’ minds. I want to get in the start gate and have people know, ‘This kid can knock me off the podium.”‘

It was Nyman’s first podium finish in the World Cup – the first of many, insisted Miller.

“He’s just an unproven athlete,” Miller said. “He has the ability to win on just about any course we go to.”

Rahlves, who had 28 World Cup podium finishes in his career, including five at the Birds of Prey, retired last year after finishing fourth in the World Cup standings.

“There is a void, we miss Daron, he brought so much to the team, more than I even realized until he was actually gone … his professionalism and his attitude and his intensity,” U.S. men’s head coach Phil McNichol said. “But we have great skiers. And we’ve been saying that for a while and the guys have been slowly stepping forward.”

Nyman is sprinting to the top of the list.

They used to call Rahlves “Money” because he could be counted on to put the Americans in the medal mix.

And now Nyman is starting to cash in.

“It’s just my mental approach,” Nyman said. “I feel like I approach things better mentally and I just gained that experience of skiing on these courses last year, because I’m so raw to them.”

Nyman said all week that he was ready to break through for his first podium.

“It’s a little brash sometimes to make predictions, but I am confident that I can win and I did today,” Nyman said after the race. “It all panned out. I’m ecstatic. It’s an awesome feeling, especially in front of the home crowd.”

That’s one of many lessons Nyman learned from Rahlves, who always ratcheted up his intensity at Beaver Creek, the only U.S. stop on the World Cup circuit.

“I witnessed his passion. I witnessed the way he approached this race. He was just so into it,” Nyman said. “He wanted to win here so bad, and he did it.”

A junior slalom world champion in 2002, Nyman’s career was sidetracked when he broke his left leg twice. But he started to make a name for himself last season, when his best result was fourth in the downhill in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

How is he different this year?

“He’s not,” Miller said. “He’s slowly ironing out the things that make the difference to winning races or not. He’s always had it. … He’s got all the right stuff. He’s a big kid. He’s got great aerodynamics. He’s super strong. He’s got good discipline. He’s willing to take the risk.

“He’s definitely going to be a guy to look out for.”

Nyman credits the time he raced alongside Rahlves for instilling that drive, and when he took a respectable 13th in the super-combi Thursday, Nyman emulated his mentor by playing to the home crowd.

“I was invited up into the stands and I got all these kids amped up and I was like, this is what it’s about. This is the hometown crowd. I’m here to perform for them. And I got super excited for (Friday),” Nyman said. “It really stoked me.”

Nyman missed Rahlves’ pep talk at the team meeting Thursday night because he had sponsorship commitments but ran into his mentor in the garage before the race.

“He was going out to powder ski,” Nyman said. “I was jealous.”

Then, he went out and made his mentor proud.


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