Friday, February 10, 2006
PRAGELOTO, ITALY — Todd Lodwick had Nordic combined skiing in his heart Saturday, but football seemed to be the only thing on his mind.
It wasn't the Denver Broncos' disappointing AFC Championship game that had him down -- it was the effects of a nasty head cold he caught earlier this week in Italy, site of the 2006 Winter Olympics.
"It felt like I was wearing a football field on my head," Lodwick said after finishing eighth overall in the Nordic combined individual Gundersen event.
Lodwick said he couldn't focus during the morning jumping session, and his 13th-place jump finish wasn't what he had hoped for in the opening event of the Winter Games. In the afternoon, it appeared Lodwick's illness would prevent him from completing the race. But after an extended discussion with coach Tom Steitz, the veteran skier elected to attempt the 15-kilometer cross-country race.
"I think it was a good decision," Lodwick said. "This will be the last time I ski at the Olympics, and I feel like I can recover before the team event."
During the cross-country race, Lodwick moved from 13th to eighth place by posting the sixth-fastest time. He finished 1 minute and 12 seconds behind winner Georg Hettich of Germany. Hettich led the competition after the jumping event, and he held off a hard-charging Felix Gottwald at the finish line to win the two-jump, 15-kilometer Gundersen event.
"The race I don't think about to win. I only think from kilometer to kilometer," Hettich said. "After the last uphill I realized I could win a medal, and maybe 50 meters from the finish line I realized I can win. I am very happy."
Gottwald, an Austrian, started the cross-country race in 11th place and 1 minute and 52 seconds behind the German. Gottwald posted the second-fastest cross-country time as he made his way through the field to catch the lead group.
"Of course (I expected Hettich to win)," Gottwald said. "There are a few other names on the list. But he had a good result in the World Cup, and you should never forget a name."
Norway's Magnus Moan finished third overall and 16.2 second behind Hettich. Fourth-place finisher Petter Tande of Norway finished 16.3 seconds back.
American Bill Demong jumped into 19th place during the morning event, and he picked up four spots during the cross-country competition to finish in 15th.
Steamboat's Johnny Spillane continued to struggle Saturday with the effects of an early-season injury. His jumps put him in 20th place, but he slipped to 30th after the cross-country race.
"You know I haven't been in the best shape for jumping in a while," Spillane said. "But there are still more competitions left, and I have more confidence on the big hill than I do here. I've done four World Cups out of 15, so it's tough to expect too much."
The Nordic combined skiers will be back on the hill Wednesday for the team event. The 7.5-kilometer sprint event is Feb. 21.
Lodwick said he was happy with his fourth top-10 finish in the past two Olympics and said he thinks he'll be able to recover in time for Wednesday's team event.
"You know, if you're not on the podium, it doesn't really matter," Lodwick said. "There is not a lot of difference between fourth-place and 20th. They are all the same place -- not on the podium."