Wednesday, January 24, 2001
Steamboat Springs On Monday, U.S. nordic combined skier Johnny Spillane may have felt like he was playing the starring role in an episode of the Twilight Zone.
He was standing just a few blocks from his home here in Steamboat Springs checking into the Harbor Hotel for the week.
"I could walk to my house, with my luggage from the hotel," Spillane said. "It was really weird."
In fact, all six members of the American nordic combined team are staying at the Harbor during the Ski Town Classic World Cup events. The team members and coach Tom Steitz explained that staying in the same place helps avoid distractions and keeps the group feeling like a team.
While staying at the hotel may seem a little weird for the athletes who live in Steamboat , they all said that jumping on the hills at Howelsen is second nature.
"This will be a big boost to our confidence," team veteran and Steamboat native Todd Lodwick said. "This is our home hill and a good showing here could go a long way."
Lodwick and Spillane were both born and raised here in Steamboat. The rest of the team including Bill Demong, Matt Dayton, Kristoffer Erichsen and Carl Van Loan have moved to Steamboat in the past several years to be closer to the team's headquarters and Steitz.
For most of the year the entire team lives and trains in Steamboat and is always eager to return for the World Cup which has taken place here the last seven years.
"It's great to come to Steamboat," Spillane said. "People here want to see us do well and we all want to do well in front of the hometown fans."
The home-hill advantage is something that Lodwick looks forward to having all year. That advantage comes with a few strings, however. The biggest is the pressure the athletes and coaching staff feel to perform their best.
"There is always a lot of pressure that goes along with this event," Steitz said. "It's a fact of life and we just have to deal with it."
Steitz said the coaching staff prefers to take a heads on approach to the pressure issue.
"The only thing we can do is get it out in the open and talk about it," Steitz said. "It's the athletes who have to deal with it."
Earlier this week Lodwick, who has competed in all six of the nordic combined World Cups in Steamboat, said he doesn't feel any pressure when he is in Steamboat.
"No, I don't think there is any added pressure," Lodwick said. "I think it is good for our team and good for these young guys. We've had a million jumps on these hills so we know them very, very well."
Steitz said whether his athletes admit it or not there is always added pressure when a team comes home.
He is just hoping they handle it this week and learn from it for the future.