Men work behind scenes to prepare Olympians

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— Scott Blair was asked to bring home chocolate and souvenir T-shirts from the Olympics, but one interesting request made the Steamboat Springs physical therapist laugh.

"One woman asked me to bring back a young Italian male," Blair said.

As the head physical therapist for the U.S. Nordic Combined Team, Blair will be around many young men during the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. But he probably won't have enough time to peruse potential Italian suitors for his colleagues at Yampa Valley Medical Center.

Blair will attend every Nordic combined practice and competition, helping the athletes warm up, cool down and stay in performance shape between competitions.

As a former ski racer, Blair is looking forward to his time in Northern Italy. He left Sunday to join the Nordic combined team, which has been training for Saturday's opening event -- the individual gold medal final.

"It will definitely be cool," he said. "I do get a little nervous for these guys. I'm hoping they are healthy and able to put their best foot forward."

Dr. Bryan Bomberg had encouraging words for those wondering about the health of the U.S. Nordic Combined Olympic Team. Bomberg re----turned from Italy on Monday night after spending seven days with the team as its doctor at the pre-Olympic camp in Val di Fiemme, Italy.

"Everyone's doing well," Bomberg said. "I was impressed. They look like they are really ready for this Olympics."

Blair and Bomberg have spec--ial relationships with the-- Nor------dic combined team. Olympians Todd Lodwick, Johnny Spillane, Bill Demong and Carl Van Loan have been working with Blair and Bomberg for years. Bomberg has been with the team for almost a decade.

"We know each other well, and the coaches know me and trust my opinion," Bomberg said.

Blair has unofficially and officially been a physical ther--apist for the U.S. Nordic Combined Team, as well as the special jumping and cross-country teams.

His relationship with the hometown Steamboat athletes goes beyond sports medicine.

"I've known most of these guys since they were this tall," Blair said, holding his hand waist high. "I coached development skiing with the Winter Sports Club. Clint (Jones) was in my group when he was like 8."

Blair said many of Steam--boat's Olympians come into YVMC's SportsMed offices for treatment and massages. He works to improve their core stability and performance. The athlete who may need more attention than the others is Spillane, who injured his shoulder in the months before the Olympics. The injury has limited the Steamboat native's ability to train. Blair said he will make sure the muscles around Spillane's injured shoulder are loose. Bomberg said Spillane looked great in Val di Fiemme, the site of his unexpected World Championship win in March 2003.

"He has really come around a lot," Bomberg said. "He is feeling good. On Sunday, he was up there jumping. He had the second- or third-longest jumps. It was good to see."

The 2006 Winter Olympics begin with the Opening Cere--monies at 6 p.m. today on NBC.

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