USA Focuses on Medal in Nordic Combined Team Event

August 9th, 2010 by Dawn

By Vicki Michaelis of USA Today
Published on 2/23/10

Bill Demong

Bill Demong and his U.S. teammates have their eyes on a medal in the Nordic combined team event Tuesday at Whistler.

The U.S. Nordic combined team expected its Olympic medal breakthrough to come at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games. And it nearly did.

The USA finished fourth in the team event, achingly close to finally winning the first U.S. medal in the sport, which combines ski jumping and cross-country skiing.

Today in Whistler, the team is heavily favored to win the second U.S. medal in Olympic Nordic combined.

“There is no such thing as a sure thing, but that’s as close as you are going to get here,” former U.S. Nordic combined coach Tom Steitz says.

Johnny Spillane made the U.S. Olympic medal breakthrough more than a week ago, with a silver in the normal hill individual event.

Somewhat overshadowed in the burst of celebration over his history-making performance were the finishes of his U.S. teammates. Todd Lodwick was fourth, Billy Demong sixth.

That two-four-six lineup bodes well for their prospects in the team event.

They also could earn more hardware in the large hill individual event, scheduled for Thursday.

“I know the USA are really good right now,” says France’s Jason Lamy Chappuis, who won gold in the normal hill. “They are in good shape.”

They are in much better shape than they were after their disappointment in 2002.

“It was a goal that we held so tightly to that when we came close to achieving it, instead of being happy that we’d done our best and been that close, we were devastated for months,” Demong says.

Spillane broke the funk with the USA’s first world title in 2003.

With Lodwick and Demong winning titles at last year’s world championships, it seemed the U.S. team also was positioned to do well in the team event at worlds.

But Demong lost his athlete’s bib before the jumping portion of the competition, so he couldn’t compete. The U.S. team was disqualified.

“Johnny laughed hard when I came into the wax cabin,” Demong says. “Todd, I think, was a little bit more miffed, but it was about 10 minutes and then he gave me a big hug. And then he laughed a little and he was like, ‘Let’s go watch this one on TV, it’s over.’

“That ability to get over that showed a level of maturity that I think speaks to the team spirit that we’ve built and also how far we’ve come since 2002.”

Far enough, perhaps, to finally stand on the Olympic medal podium as a team.

“It’s going to be exciting and we’re going to have to do our job,” Demong says, “but I think we have some confidence from the other day (when they finished two-four-six), for sure.”

Read the original article at USA Today

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