Olympic Trials event overview: Nordic combined

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The Olympic Trials are scheduled to air at 12:30 p.m. Saturday on NBC.

More about the trials:

Moguls

Aerials

An overview, including maps

Schedule

Wednesday

8:30 a.m. Nordic combined trial jumps at Howelsen Hill

9 to 9: 30 a.m. Nordic combined competition jumps at Howelsen Hill

11:30 a.m. to noon Nordic combined 10-kilometer cross-country race at the rodeo grounds at Howelsen Hill

12:45 p.m. Moguls showcase at Voo Doo ski run at Steamboat Ski Area

1 to 1:45 p.m. Men’s and women’s moguls Run 1 at Voo Doo ski run at Steamboat Ski Area

2 to 2:45 p.m. Men’s and women’s moguls Run 2 at Voo Doo ski run

3:30 p.m. Final Awards for all events at Gondola Square, at Steamboat Ski Area

4 p.m. Concert — Big Head Todd & The Monsters, Gondola Square

■ Thursday

10 to 10:30 a.m. Aerials Run 1 at Voo Doo ski run at Steamboat Ski Area

10:40 to 11:10 a.m. Aerials Run 2 at Voo Doo ski run

11:30 a.m. Aerials awards at Voo Doo ski run

All events are free and open to the public

Take the explosive energy and thrilling flights of ski jumping, add the endurance and strength of cross-country skiing, and the result is one of the most unique winter sports in the world: Nordic combined.

The age-old sport of Nordic combined made its first Olympic appearance in 1924, and while it has undergone several format changes since its early days, the fundamentals have remained pretty much the same. The athlete who scores the most points on the jump hill and skis the fastest on the cross-country course wins the event.

The format used for this year’s Olympic Trials in Steamboat Springs on Wednesday is the same one currently used on the FIS World Cup and Continental Cup tours. It also is the same format spectators can expect to see at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.

The event begins on the jump hill, where athletes will take a practice, or trial, jump, followed by a single scored jump in the competition. The athletes are scored based on distance and style. Those jumping scores then determine the starting order of the 10-kilometer cross-country race. The athlete who wins the jumping portion will start first in the cross-country race, and the rest of the field will start with a time handicap based on a system called the Gundersen Method, which translates points on the jump hill into a time penalty on the cross-country course.

The athletes will start the cross-county race at different times, but the only thing to remember is that the athlete who crosses the finish line first wins the event. This week’s U.S. Olympic Trials are expected to host a field of about 20 jumpers. Most of the athletes competing will be members of the U.S. Ski Team. However, a few of the athletes may not be on the team but have met the International Skiing Federation criteria to compete in the Olympic Games.

Athletes to watch:

Todd Lodwick

After a brief two-year retirement, Steamboat Springs native Todd Lodwick made a triumphant return to international skiing and the World Cup tour last season. It was without question one of his best seasons, as he raced to titles in the mass start (not an Olympic event) and individual Gundersen events at the 2009 World Championships in Liberec, Czech Republic. Lodwick elected to stay close to home this year, and opened his season Dec. 12 and 13 with a pair of victories in a Continental Cup meet in Park City, Utah. He competed at his first World Cup event of the season last weekend in Ramsau, Austria. There is no question the four-time Olympian — and most decorated U.S. Nordic combined athlete in history — has his sight set on another shot at Olympic glory in 2010, and it could all start this weekend on the slopes of his hometown Howelsen Hill.

Johnny Spillane

It’s been a frustrating few years for Steamboat Springs’ Johnny Spillane. Since winning the sprint title at the 2003 World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy, Spillane has been hampered by a string of injuries. The latest came last summer, when Spillane hurt his knee while training for a Fourth of July competition in Steamboat. He spent nearly two months — and underwent two surgeries — recovering from the setback, but he now seems to be on track. Spillane collected two top-10 finishes at the second World Cup stop of the season in Lillehammer, Norway. Spillane just missed the podium, placing fourth in an event Dec. 6. Spillane was sixth in an event held Dec. 5. It’s a good start for a local skier hoping to make his fourth Olympics appearance.

Bill Demong

He’s from Vermontville, N.Y., but there is no question that Bill Demong will be a hometown favorite at this year’s Olympic Trials.

Demong moved to Steam­boat Springs in 1996 to be closer to the U.S. Nordic combined team, which was based here at the time. He made Steamboat his full-time home from 1998 to 2003, but followed the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team to Park City when they moved following the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. Demong collected a silver medal at the 2007 World Championships in the individual Gundersen event. Last year, he won gold and bronze medals at the 2009 World Championships in Liberec, Czech Republic.

Don’t forget about these guys:

Lodwick, Spillane and Demong may be the big dogs on the U.S. team, but they’re not the only ones gunning for a win Wednesday. Watch for strong performances from hometown favorites Bryan Fletcher, who is coming off of strong showings at a recent World Cup in Lillehammer, and Alex Miller, who was fourth at a Park City Continental Cup meet Dec. 12. Several other skiers, including Taylor Fletcher, Nick Hendrickson, Cliff Field, Brett Denney and Alex Glueck, also could compete for the podium. Park City’s Brett Camerota, who raced in Lillehammer, and Eric Camerota, who placed 11th last weekend at the Continental Cup meet in Park City, are no strangers to big-time Nordic combined competition.

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