Saturday, February 9, 2002
Park City, Utah Todd Lodwick and Bill Demong may have to rely on each other if they are to climb into medal contention during today's conclusion of the Olympic individual Nordic combined competition.
The 15-kilometer ski race begins at 9 a.m. at Soldier Hollow. Lodwick ranked seventh, ad Demong, eighth, after Saturday's K90 ski jumping competition at Utah Olympic Park.
Lodwick will start the cross country race 2:15 behind the leader, Jaakko Tallus of Finland. Demong will be 2:20 back.
"I'm satisfied with my jumps," Lodwick said. "There's a bunch of skiers ahead of me that I've consistently beaten over the last four years."
A former teammate and Olympian, Tim Tetreault, said after Saturday's ski jumping was over that because they will start only 5 seconds apart, the two Americans have a chance to work together. They could link up and draft off one another in an effort to overtake the lead pack.
"A medal is a stretch," Tetreault said. "But it's possible. The altitude is the X-factor."
It's always easier to ski in a group, Tetreault said, and skiers who team up can switch off taking the lead as they pursue the leaders, allowing them to take small rests in mid-race.
Tetreault believes Demong has acquired new confidence, which should allow him to ski with Lodwick.
"I'm not saying this is what they're going to do," Tetreault said. "But Billy just won a World Cup in the Czech Republic. He skied with (World Cup leader) Felix Gottwald in that race. Traditionally, Todd has been the stronger skier, but now Billy has the confidence to ski with him."
Two other Americans, Johnny Spillane in 25th place and Matt Dayton in 31st, will start the cross country race more than 4 minutes behind the leader.
Tallus doesn't promise to be the Americans' biggest concern. And even Austria's Mario Stecher, who will start in second, 48 seconds back, isn't their chief rival.
The challenge begins with Finnish veteran Samppa Lajunen, who is in third, 53 seconds back. Lajunen, a ferocious competitor, has a 1:12 lead on Lodwick. Next in line is Austria's Christoph Bieler, 1:03 back. He's followed by Germany's Ronny Ackermann in fifth, 1:08 back. Ackermann currently ranks second in the World Cup standings. World Cup leader Felix Gottwald of Austria put himself in a difficult position Saturday, placing 11th.
Tetreault said a number of the first six skiers are also likely to team up today. However, they'll also be jockeying for medals, and if they aren't careful, Lodwick and Demong could catch up.
Tallus thrilled the crowd of 17,600 by soaring 101.5 meter on his second jump. That effort was just a half meter shy of the hill record.
A gentle uphill breeze buoyed the jumpers at times, but it was fickle. Some athletes seemed to catch a better cushion of air than others.
Demong's first jump went 91 meters and Lodwick nosed him out with an effort of 91.5 meters. Spillane went 85 meters ad Dayton, 85.5.
Spillane had his best ride in the second round, going 90.5. Dayton leaped 87. Demong and Lodwick both jumped 92.5 meters in the second round.