Nordic combined skiers get ready for team event

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The members of the U.S. Nordic combined team will head into the team event Wednesday with high hopes for a medal.

"They think they can do it," former coach Tom Steitz said. "It's going to be a challenge, but it's possible."

After Austria and Germany turned in strong performances in the two-jump, 15-kilometer individual event Saturday, those teams are fav--orites to capture the medals in the team event. But the United States, Finland and Norway have what it takes to challenge the favorites.

Steitz thinks some of the other teams are vulnerable.

"You don't win the team event," Steitz said. "You lose it."

The keys for the American team will be getting a strong showing from Todd Lodwick, who finished eighth in Sat-urday's competition, and Bill Demong, who was 15th in the individual event.

The Americans also need Johnny Spillane to have a solid jumping performance and to ski a strong leg in the relay cross-county race. Spillane is suffering from an early season shoulder injury that has sidelined him for all but four World Cup events this season.

Spillane, who won the World Championship sprint event in Val di Fiemme, Italy, in 2003, looked strong early in Saturday's 15-kilometer race before slowing and dropping off the pace.

Spillane said he is excited about the team event and feels as though he can maintain a fast pace through shorter distances. Each member of the team will take a turn skiing 5 kilometers Wednesday.

The team also needs some help from one of two athletes making their first Olympic appearances, Brett Cam-erota or Carl Van Loan. Camerota skied in the opening event and will be a likely choice for the final team spot. Van Loan was a member of the team but did not compete at the 2002 Olympics. He placed 28th in the 2003 World Championships.

"I'm really excited about the team event and the sprint," Lodwick said. "I think everyone on our team has been looking toward the team event, and I think we are going to do very well."

-- To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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