Winter Olympians watching Games with eye on Salt Lake

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— Todd Lodwick and the members of the U.S. Nordic Combined team have been watching the Olympic Games in Sydney this week with more than just a passing interest.
"It's been nice to see the Olympics on television," Lodwick said. "We can see what is going to happen in Salt Lake in two years."
While the sports will be different at the Winter Games, Lodwick said watching the American athletes win medals this week has been inspiring.
"It's nice to see examples of what to do when you win a medal and what not to do," Lodwick said. "Watching these guys pumps us up and gets everyone on the team excited for what is coming."
Head nordic combined coach Tom Steitz said the Summer Games have brought a lot of attention to his athletes and also a lot of questions from locals who have been tuned in to Sydney.
Steitz said people ask all types of questions of the U.S. team members and coaches about events at the summer Olympics and the athletes who are taking part.
"Steamboat is unique because people can see Olympians in the grocery line or at the post office and talk to them about the Olympics," Steitz said. "They will say, 'Hey did you see that on TV last night?' or 'What did you think of that?'"
For Steitz, the TV coverage and the questions are a reminder that his team is just a winter away from its turn at the Olympic.
Earlier this month, the American team took its first jumps at the new jumping complex in Park City.
"The jumps are wonderful," Steitz said. "They are still not completely finished, but they are great for jumping."
The American team recently returned from the jumps and will return this week for more training on the Utah plastic. Steitz expects the Europeans to show up next week, and there may be a few late summer competitions to help the Americans gauge just how far they have come with their off-season training.
"It's nice to get on the jumps," Lodwick said. "But we will not know anything until the snow starts flying."
Lodwick said he feels good about where he and the rest of the American team members are right now. In the next few months, the team will move from a summer frame of mind to winter training. Steitz said the Americans are already waiting and hoping for early snow.
This year, the World Cup Tour will begin with a tour of European destinations. The U.S. team and the world will not come to the United States until January during a pair of World Cups in Park City and Steamboat Springs.
The first Nordic Combined event of the season will be in Lillehammer on Nov. 26. After that, the team will tour Norway, Austria and Italy all before the holiday break. Americans making the trip will include Lodwick, Bill Demong, Carl Van Loan and Kristoffer Erichsen.
Steitz is happy the World Cup B schedule will start in North America with events in Park City and Calgary. Americans Johnny Spillane, Matt Dayton and Jed Hinkley will be competing in those lower-level competitions.
Lodwick will not have to wait to find the spotlight, however. He will get a chance to steal some of the thunder created at the Summer Games during a short video replay of him jumping in Utah. It will be part of a Winter Games package that will be shown on one of the large televisions at the Sydney closing ceremonies.
"There is no doubt that having the Olympics on television has helped to increase the interest in our team," Steitz said. "Now we just have to keep the interest high until the next Olympic Games."

To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or e-mail jrussell@amigo.net

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