A top-five finish

Steamboat's Lodwick falls short of Olympic medal


— American Todd Lodwick was all smiles following his fifth-place finish in Friday's cross county race at Soldier Hollow.

Lodwick may not have medalled at the Olympics, but he knew he had left it all out on the cross country course following the race and he was happy with that.

" I knew I didn't want to go out too hard in the race to catch Felix (Gottwald) right off the bat," Lodwick said. " I knew that would kill me, but I finally caught him."

Lodwick was able to work with the Austrian skier through the first two laps moving up to fourth place in the overall standings, but in the final lap Gottwald proved to be stronger as he pulled away from the American and the rest of the field.

"I felt like I had a lot of power in my legs today, so I wanted to make my move before the last 50 meters," Gottwald said. "In the end the race was just between me and my legs."

Gottwald pulled away in the final lap to complete his rise from 11th place after the jumping to third overall. Lodwick climbed to fourth, but fell behind Finland's Jaakko Tallus in the last downhill and fell to fifth. Lodwick had placed 12th after the jumping Thursday.

"To be recognized as one of the best in the world is great. I would have loved to have had a medal and put Nordic combined in the history books with my name beside it but I will always have fun doing this sport."

Finland's Samppa Lajunen, however, may have had more fun Friday than anyone else on the course. The flying Finn, who won the jumping on Thursday, completed the sweep Friday by topping the field and collecting his third gold medal of the Olympic Games. He held off Germany's Ronny Ackermann to win the race by a nine second margin.

"I would have been nervous before the meet no matter what," Lajunen said. "I just tried to ski my race and watch where Ronny (Ackermann) was."

But Ackermann would never make a run at the leader as Lajunen pulled away in the final lap and was never threatened again.

Lodwick's finish was the highest ever in an individual event for an American skier. He has posted a seventh, the previous best in the individual, and continued to look strong in Friday's event.

"We had great skies," Lodwick said. "I might have gone a little bit early, but I still have a hard time slowing down in a cross country race because my mentality is just to go, go, go. I didn't know how many people were coming up behind me. It was much better than the 5-kilometer race.

Other top American finishes included Bill Demong in 14th place, 1:16 behind the leaders, and Johnny Spillane who was 32nd 1:55 behind the leaders. Matt Dayton finished the race in 36th place 2:35 behind Lajunen.

Despite the fact the Americans didn't win a medal, the athletes felt like they had promoted the sport of Nordic combined over the past week and that may pay off with more exposure.

"I think people came out here and saw this pursuit race and it opens their eyes," Demong said. "Those of us in Steamboat and maybe Lake Placid know that is exciting, but the rest of the country is just finding out."

More than 16,000 people showed up to watch Thursday's jumping and an estimated 20,000 took in Friday's cross country race.


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