Focus of a champ

Yellow jersey never far from Lodwick's thoughts

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— Winning the opening event of the 2003 Summer Grand Prix in Villach, Austria, last month has fueled Todd Lodwick's desire to dress in yellow.

A yellow jersey goes to the overall leader of the Nordic Combined World Cup Tour.

Lodwick knows how it feels to wear the leader's jersey after winning the opening event of the Summer Grand Prix last month. The Summer Grand Prix features the world's best Nordic combined athletes jumping on plastic and racing on inline skates as part of a four-part series.

Lodwick posted first-, third-, fourth- and 10th-place finishes during a strong run at the events. The veteran skier was the only American with a chance to win the overall Grand Prix title, and he elected to stay with the Norwegian team when his teammates left the series early to train on a glacier in Switzerland.

"The yellow jersey was the only thing on my mind," Lodwick said. "It was my main reason for going and that was what I wanted."

Unfortunately, Lodwick's bid to keep the yellow jersey in the Summer Grand Prix wasn't to be. He wore the jersey after the opening event, but surrendered it to Germany's Jens Gaiser, who moved past the American in the second event and then held on for the series title. Gaiser scored 261 points in four events; Lodwick was second at 236; and defending World Cup Champion Ronny Ackermann of Germany was third with 205 points.

But finishing just short of his goal hasn't dampened Lodwick's drive as the temperatures begin to fall and thoughts turn to winter and the opening event of the 2003 World Cup season in Kuusamo, Finland, on Nov. 29.

That's what Lodwick was thinking about after finishing the Summer Grand Prix on Sunday in Winterberg, Germany.

"I'm not getting any younger," the 27-year-old Lodwick said. "I need to win some more medals before I'm through, and this is the season I want to put it all together."

Lodwick is among the elite Nordic combined skiers in the world, but he feels like he still has many things to accomplish on the World Cup tour.

The three-time Olympian has won five World Cup events. He said he expects to meet many of his goals this winter.

"It's time to stop horsing around," Lodwick said. "I'm tired of seeing guys on the podium and knowing I'm better than most of them."

Lodwick wasn't horsing around last month as he posted the best finishes for the Americans on the Summer Grand Prix.

Lodwick jumped to seventh place in the final event despite tricky wind conditions in Winterberg. Then, he posted the fastest time of the day in the 14-kilometer inline skating race to move up to third place in the final standings.

Lodwick said it wasn't his best day, but he was happy with the finish considering the poor jumping conditions he faced in the competition.

"I'm in good shape, both in jumping and cross country," he said. "I've been jumping well all summer and now I want to carry that into the winter."

Austrian Mario Stecher won the final event of the series and was followed by Norway's Kristian Hammer. Gaiser, who won the second event of the Grand Prix, placed seventh in Sunday's event. It was enough for him to win the overall summer title.

--To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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