For more than a decade, Steamboat Springs' Todd Lodwick has been a driving force behind Nordic combined skiing in the United States.
He has won five World Cup events in his career, more than any other American Nordic combined skier before him. He also has been a part of three different Winter Olympic Games and has stepped onto 12 World Cup podiums.
For him, winning is no longer a surprise; it has come to be expected.
What is surprising about the 27-year-old is that he feels a burning desire to win.
He is at a point of his career where he has nothing left to prove and could easily cruise into the American history books. Instead, Lodwick is more determined than ever to make his mark on the sport he has pursued at the international level for 11 years.
Lodwick won a Summer Grand Prix in Austria last month and finished second in the overall standings of the four-part series, which is the summer equivalent of the World Cup.
In the Grand Prix, the world's best Nordic combined athletes compete on plastic-covered jumps and simulate cross country skiing on inline skates.
Lodwick was the top American finisher. But the veteran is no longer satisfied with the idea of being the best American. He wants more.
Lodwick's results are impressive by any standard, but he is searching for that one defining moment.
He watched teammate Johnny Spillane race to one of those moments in February when the 20-year-old won the gold at the Nordic World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy.
For the first time in his career, Lodwick was out of the spotlight, but he proved he had the heart of a champion as he hoisted his teammate on his shoulders and celebrated the one moment he craves most.
It's no longer just about winning for him -- but winning the big one.
His goal this season is to win the yellow jersey that goes to the leader of the World Cup Tour. It's an ambitious goal, but Lodwick already has proven he has the talent to win and he says he is more determined than ever.
To get there, he must consistently be better than the other World Cup skiers who are driven by the same desire.
The temperatures will drop and the snow will fall in the next few months and most of our thoughts will turn to finding nice winter coats to keep us warm.
But when winter's frozen touch arrives, Lodwick will not be looking for a coat. He'll be looking for a thin yellow jersey that already has ignited a fire in his heart.
-- To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org