VAL GARDENA, Italy (AP) – The World Cup circuit has been racing on the classic Saslong course since 1969, but entering this weekend an American had never won there.

Now the U.S. has two wins in as many days.

Steve Nyman won a downhill Saturday for his first World Cup victory, a day after Bode Miller’s super-giant slalom triumph.

“The drought’s over with a serious rainstorm,” U.S. head coach Phil McNichol said. “For whatever the reason, we’ve never done particularly well here – only two podiums, both third places, before this weekend. But Bode and Steven ended that problem big time.”

Marco Sullivan, another American, finished fourth Saturday for his best career result. Miller was the only skier with a faster midway split time than Nyman, but he nearly skied off course entering the tricky Ciaslat section and finished 14th.

“We got here and in our first meeting our head coach said it’s been years since we’ve had a podium here and he just said, ‘Get it on boys, let’s do it.’ We just took it to heart and we’ve had a good couple of days,” Sullivan said.

The best previous U.S. results in Val Gardena were third-place showings by Mike Lafferty in 1972 and AJ Kitt in 1992.

Nyman covered the 2.1-mile Saslong course in 1 minute, 56.52 seconds. Didier Cuche of Switzerland was second, 0.02 seconds behind, and Fritz Strobl of Austria was third.

“I felt like everything was in the flow today,” said Nyman, who pulled his right hamstring in a fall in Wednesday’s training. “Everything was good, cool. I was super calm all day long. Right now I’m super excited.”

Nyman moved into second place in the downhill standings behind Cuche, although he said winning the title is a long way off.

“It could happen. But here come the daunting courses – Kitzbuehel, Wengen. Wengen’s not that daunting, but it’s long,” Nyman said. “We’re only in the beginning of the season. We’ll see what happens.”

Nyman got his first podium finish two weeks ago when he finished third in a downhill in Beaver Creek, Colo., which Miller won.

Nyman grew up in Utah, started skiing at the age of 2 and racing at 8 in Sundance, where his father was the ski school chief. He was the world junior slalom champion in 2002. After breaking both legs in separate accidents, he’s become an expert in downhill, which puts less strain on his legs.

At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Nyman is built like Miller, though slightly bigger. And at 24, he’s five years younger than his teammate. Personality-wise, though, Nyman is about as different as can be from Miller.

Nyman comes across as a fun-loving mountain boy. A Mormon, he does not drink alcohol.

After Miller won the super-G, he accused his team of “sabotage” by not allowing him to sleep in his motor home. The U.S. team instituted rules this season forcing skiers to stay in the team hotel.

“He has a bigger bed in the hotel than me and I’m taller than him. He can’t complain,” Nyman said with a smile. “Maybe I deserve a bigger room now.”

With two wins already, it’s shaping up as a potential blockbuster weekend for the Americans, with a giant slalom and slalom scheduled for nearby Alta Badia on Sunday and Monday.

Miller won the GS in Badia in 2002 and Olympic combined champion Ted Ligety is still looking to break out in slalom this season.

“The team is coming on strong,” Nyman said. “There are a lot of guys to focus on. Marco Sullivan showed that today – that kid is fast. And Ted and Jimmy Cochran are coming up in the tech events. There are a lot of good guys on our team.”

AP-ES-12-16-06 1426EST


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