Steamboat Springs Four nordic combined skiers with Steamboat Springs addresses will travel to Lahti, Finland, this week to begin preparing for the World Championships.
Steamboat Springs natives Todd Lodwick and Johnny Spillane will join transplants Bill Demong and Matt Dayton on the American World Championship team.
"We feel good," American coach Jan-Erik Aablu said. "We are much better than we were a year ago and our boys are skiing with a lot of confidence right now."
The nordic combined team will compete in a two-jump, 15-kilometer competition Feb. 16. They will also take part in a four-man team event Feb. 20 and a one-jump, 7.5-kilometer event Feb 24.
Aablu said it is important not to expect too much from the young American team at this World Championships. The team still has a long way to go, and he prefers to look at the progress in small steps.
"We want to send a smaller four-man team," Aablu said. "You can only have four guys in each event, so it makes sense to take a smaller team."
The American squad has grown to seven skiers, its biggest number ever, but will shrink slightly for the next period of the World Cup.
Lodwick, Demong, Spillane and Dayton will all stay on the World Cup A tour. Kristoffer Erichsen and Carl Van Loan will both move back to World Cup B.
"Both Kristoffer and Carl are very close," Aablu said. "But I think it will do them more good to step back and gain more experience at the B level."
Jed Hinkley has also qualified to move up to the A level based on his finish last week at the World Junior Championships. But like the other younger skiers, he will wait until next year to make the jump to the A level.
"There will be 100,000 people watching us compete, so this is a pretty big deal," American head coach Tom Steitz said of the World Championships. "The guys are excited and we are ready to go."
The four-man team and its coaches will leave for a World Cup event in Liberec, Czech Republic, Saturday and Sunday. The team will then break for the World Championships before returning to the World Cup schedule in Nayoro, Japan, March 1.
The World Championships will be the final major international event prior to the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City.