Sunday, February 17, 2002
Soldier Hollow, Utah The solemn faces told the story as U.S. Nordic combined fans filed out of the stadium Sunday after watching Todd Lodwick, Bill Demong, Johnny Spillane and Matt Dayton place fourth in the 4X5k relay.
They had come hoping to witness a historic day, with the U.S. winning an unprecedented Olympic medal. When it didn't happen, they turned philosophical.
"They did a spectacular job," said Jeanne Lodwick, Todd's mother. "It's just not easy to finish fourth when you want a medal. A medal would have been great. They gave it everything."
Matt Dayton's mom, Therese, has hopes the combination of the Americans' steadily improving finishes and the impressive facility at Soldier Hollow will boost U.S. Nordic programs.
"They're awesome athletes and this was the best U.S. finish ever," Therese Dayton said. "It's always been a sport that's been extremely difficult. They've all shared a vision of standing on a podium. I've wanted them to share that experience."
Steamboaters Dean Vogelaar and Rod Hanna jumped in the car Sunday and made the five-hour drive to Heber City, Utah, then boarded a shuttle to Soldier Hollow. Hanna is close to the U.S. Team because he played a role in organizing the first Steamboat World Cups in the sport.
"It's kind of like it's my own kids," Hanna said. "I'm real proud of them. They were just one place shy of a medal, and I know they're going to continue to get better."
Vogelaar acknowledged the U.S. Team had taken its fans through some emotional ups and downs in 24 hours.
"It was thrilling to see (the ski jumping phase) on TV yesterday and come over to watch today. We really can't be too disappointed," Vogelaar said. "We just know what their own expectations were."
Todd Wilson, Nordic program director for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, and a former Nordic combined Olympian, may have said it best.
"It feels good to be disappointed with fourth," Wilson said.
He hastened to add that when he reflected on the day, he wasn't really disappointed.
"What an awesome day for North America!" Wilson said. "First the men take fifth in the (4X10k cross country) relay and then Nordic combined takes fourth, and yesterday, Canada's Becky Scott won a bronze."
The Nordic combined medal never materialized, but Steamboat fans found ample reasons to be proud of what they had witnessed.