AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Speed is key to success in downhill skiing, snowboarding, athletes say

By NBC News | Posted - Feb 17th, 2014 @ 8:39pm



SOCHI — In skiing and snowboarding the key to success is nothing but speed.

The speed needs to be controlled with competitors on either side and unstable conditions. Speed is so important that sometimes it creates insane scenarios.

"Sitting in the start gate, looking down the line the gate drops," said U.S. Snowboarder Nate Holland. "Sometimes it goes really smoothed and controlled and sometimes it's just utter chaos."

These riders have to be very smart about where they take the corners and maximize their speed lines.

"The biggest and most common thing for a start is to have some kind of feature that's going to separate all of the competitors right away," said freestyle skier John Teller.

It's different all the time, in order to keep the participants on their toes, so to speak.

"They put a million jumps, a million rollers in front of us," Holland said. "You're trying to get over this feature as soon as possible, and some guys wrecking off to your left. And another guy's nipping at your heels on your right. When you're looking at a big, 70-foot jump, you're hitting this thing at 50, 60 miles an hour, you're gonna catch air. A rule of thumb is to get out of the air. The air is slow. The snow is fast."

Big air is not what you want to see. You want to keep that board on the ground so you can run fast.

"Get in your tuck," said Alpine skiier Steve Nyman. "Get in the most aerodynamic position you can and search for the maximum amount of speed while sliding down a sheet of ice.

"If you are going off a jump and you're actually flying far," Nyman said. "You are covering more distance on the course and uh, you're killing time."

There is a science to all of it and sometimes it isn't a feeling on the snow, but it comes from a different sense.

"You want to land really soft," Holland said. "You want to barely even hear your landing."

Land very, very smooth by keeping the board on the ground.

"Sochi is going to be a chess match," Holland said. "There's a lot of different features. Lots of big air. Lots of scraped sections. And I think it's a great course."

However, there are no excuses. Every person riding this snow and ice will be doing it on the same field, and so it comes down to speed.

"It's all about time in our event. It's not about style or judges," Nyman said. "It's all about the clock. The clock doesn't lie."

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