Steamboat Springs As expected, spring 2006 has been a season of change for the U.S. Nordic Combined Team.
Last week, team officials announced that Lasse Ottesen will replace Bard Elden as the team's head coach. It was well-known that Elden, who was named head coach at the end of the 2002 season, was not planning to return to the team at the end of the 2006 season.
Ottesen traveled with the team to most of the World Cup competitions and also acts as the team's jumping coach.
"I think it will be great," U.S. Nordic Combined Team member and Steamboat Springs native Johnny Spillane said. "Lasse is a great guy, and I think he will be able to carry on the things that Bard did so well."
Spillane doesn't think the coaching switch will mean huge changes for the team. The veteran skier expects the squad to approach training and the season in much the same way as it has.
Former Olympian Dave Jar--rett's role with the team may change slightly, but he also is expected to stay with the unit that will include several veterans, including Spillane and Bill Demong.
The 31-year-old Ottesen is a three-time Olympic ski jumper from Norway. Elden spent nearly a decade with the American team as an assistant and head coach.
In February, Elden said he was hoping to return to his hometown, north of Trondheim on the Norway's coast.
"Lasse is a natural choice to succeed Bard. He's been with the program at the top levels and has the skills needed to lead the team. The athletes know and respect him," said Luke Bodensteiner, Nordic director for the U.S. Ski Team.
In related news, Spillane recently underwent shoulder surgery to repair damage to his right shoulder suffered in a crash at the beginning of last season. Spillane tolerated the pain so he could continue to compete, but he returned to Steamboat for surgery when the season ended.
Spillane is now recovering from the March 31 operation. He said he's learning to cast his fly fishing rod with his left hand, and he hopes to be back on the jump hill by early July.
Spillane said expects to be healthy and ready to compete long before the start of the World Cup Tour in the fall.
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