Skiers unite in hopes of Nordic gold

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— The 2006 Olympics have come down to one competitive jump and a 7.5-kilometer race for the members of the United States Nordic combined team.

"We had two jumps today, and things seem to be going pretty well," American coach Dave Jarrett said. "Todd was way closer to the way he was jumping in Predazzo, before we came to the Olympics, and that's a good sign."

Jarrett also was optimistic that Johnny Spillane, who performed well in the team event Thursday but did not jump in training Sunday, would be able to make a run for a medal.

"Johnny woke up with a little head cold and decided to skip training," Jarret said. "But he's been jumping well and should be ready to go Tuesday."

The coach thinks Bill Demong also could be in the hunt. Demong wasn't perfect in training, but Jarrett said he is getting closer to where he needs to be to make a run on the cross-country course.

The large hill sprint will open Tuesday morning with one jump to count. The athletes' scores from that event then will be used to position them in the 7.5-kilometer cross-country race.

"I think the (Nordic combined) sprint is my event," Lodwick said. "This is altitude, and I live at it and train at it and have for a while. It didn't feel good in the team events, but I can definitely go faster. I have to pace myself for this course -- it's going to be a grueling, grueling test."

Lodwick will be hoping for the cooler conditions that greeted the Nordic combined skiers on the opening day of the Olympics instead of what he faced in the team event.

"It was slushy, warm and a little more humid," Lodwick said. "It was two different days. The first race was cold and fast, and the team one wasn't."

The Americans want to end the Olympics with a win after frustrations boiled over in the team event last week.

After the team's seventh-place finish, Lodwick expressed his disappointment that coaches elected to start Carl Van Loan instead of Brett Camerota.

"We've sorted all that out," Jarrett said. "It isn't that what Todd said wasn't true, but it was unfortunate how it came out. It wasn't the right time, or the right form for him to express his anger."

Jarrett doesn't expect Lod-wick's comments to affect team members in the sprint event. He said that the team has sorted out most of the issues and that now, it's in the past.

"It's just one jump, so anything can happen," Jarrett said. "If we can come out and jump like I know we can, then things are going to be pretty exciting."

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

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