Wednesday, February 20, 2002
Olympic Park, Utah Three days after a crushing fourth-place finish in Soldier Hollow, the members of the U.S. Nordic Combined Team got an uplifting call from a guy who knows about adversity.
"John Elway gave the guys a call this morning to congratulate them on their finish in the team event," head coach Tom Steitz said.
Steitz said the former Denver Broncos quarterback, who suffered three Super Bowl losses before winning his last two, got hold of Todd Lodwick's phone number in Utah and gave him a call at the team's house. During a television interview last week, Lodwick professed to be a longtime Elway fan.
"Once Todd figured out it was for real he got pretty excited," Steitz said.
No doubt the call was a boost to a team that is looking for some lift after placing fourth in the team event Sunday. The team took a day off Wednesday to regroup and rest.
"It was our best result ever, but fourth is the hardest place to finish in the Olympics," Steitz said.
The squad trained on Tuesday, but heavy snow fell at a steady pace Wednesday morning, forcing officials to cancel the Nordic combined training session slated for the K-120 hill at Utah Olympic Park.
The session, which was originally scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m., was pushed back until 10:45 a.m., and then completely scrapped after a group of forerunners barely cleared the knoll of the hill one of them landing in the pine bows that form the Olympic rings. Steitz said the skiers could not gain enough speed on the inrun and also had to contend with a sticky landing hill and outrun area.
The training was the final warmup for the fast-paced Nordic combined sprint event, which is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. today with jumping.
The pressure will be on all the competitors in the sprint, because the athletes only have one training jump and then one jump that counts on the Olympic K-120 hill.
"The weather is really up to chance," Steitz said.
"It's a one-jump event, so the weather will be a big factor. But that's what makes the sprint so exciting you never know what is going to happen."
The athletes' finish in the jumping will determine their start positions in the 7.5-kilometer cross country race Friday at Soldier Hollow. Steitz has compared the sprint race to a fire drill where athletes are forced to go 100 percent from start to finish.
The Americans will once again be looking for a medal.
"I think our chances of medaling, percentage-wise, are the same in all the events," Steitz said. "We've improved on every Olympic event and we just want to keep that going."
Lodwick is the top American threat to earn a medal in the race. Bill Demong and Matt Dayton have also posted top finishes in other World Cup events earlier this season.
Putting behind the disappointment of falling just short of a medal in the team event will be key, Steitz said.
"I think all of our guys have to make peace with it and then put it out of their minds," Steitz said. "I think we have had a few days to do that and I think we are ready."