Steamboat skiers out on top

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The opening weekend, was a big weekend in the World Cup for athletes from Steamboat Springs.

"We're ecstatic about what's going on overseas," said Todd Wilson, Nordic director for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. "We couldn't be happier."

Nordic combined skiers Todd Lodwick and Johnny Spillane, both of Steamboat, got off to great starts in Kuusamo, Finland. Lodwick was third in the opening 15-kilometer event, which was held Saturday. Spillane raced to 11th in the opener.

On Sunday, Lodwick led the jumping portion and then held on to finish second in the 7.5-kilometer sprint. He was 42 seconds behind the winner.

Finland's Hannu Manninen won the race in a time of 19 minutes, 49 seconds. Spillane was fifth, 50.7 seconds back.

Carl Van Loan posted a 34th-place finish, 2 minutes, 56.2 seconds behind the winner.

"It was a good start in tough weather," Lodwick said. "I've certainly got my confidence -- I just have to get my cross-country legs under me.

"But my jumping's right there, and this makes eight podiums in a row, including the summer."

The results from the American special jumping team, which is led by former Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club coach Corby Fisher, also were encouraging in the opening week.

Clint Jones scored World Cup points Saturday with a 25th in Kuusamo. He followed it up by placing 32nd in Sunday's event.

"He is satisfied. It was his goal to be in the top 30 in the first period, but I think he is hungry for better results this weekend in Trondheim (Norway)," Fisher said.

Both of the opening ski jumping events were won by defending World Cup champion Janne Ahonen who is from Finland.

Fisher said the American team just got back on snow a week ago and had to deal with tricky wind conditions in the World Cup opener.

"Now that we have the opening weekend under our belts, we can start focusing on the future. We will make the necessary adjustments and continue to achieve our goals," Fisher said.

Fisher said he was happy to see Alan Alborn return to the World Cup lineup. Alborn returned to World Cup competition after a brief retirement and finished 37th in his first competition and 50th in the second. It wasn't the type of results the skier is used to, but considering where he was last season, Fisher was impressed.

"It was a little rough for Alan," Fisher said. "But considering that he is coming back from retirement straight into the World Cup level, his return was still a success."

The special jumpers and Nordic combined skiers will head to Trondheim this weekend for World Cup events.

For Wilson and other coaches at the SSWSC who worked with most of these athletes, the news of World Cup success is a reason to celebrate.

"This is a great start to the season," Wilson said. "I don't think we've ever had a better start. When those guys do well, it just makes us feel great because it makes all the hard work worthwhile and proves that we are providing a good foundation for athletes who want to go on to that level."

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

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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