Steamboat Springs The top Nordic combined skiers in the world will get back on the snow in Kuusamo, Finland, this week when the World Cup officially returns, but there will be at least one team missing.
“We are skipping Kuusamo,” U.S. Nordic combined coach Dave Jarrett said. “Kuusamo is a long way away from everything. Since we have four stops before Christmas, this was a no-brainer.”
The American skiers include local favorites Johnny Spillane, Bryan Fletcher and Bill Demong. Brett Camerota of Park City, Utah, also will make the trip. But the team has elected to skip the Saturday and Sunday event in Finland and will open the season a week later in Trondheim, Norway.
Until then, the team will be training several hundred miles southwest in Lillehammer, Norway.
“The first World Cup of the season is always so early,” Jarrett said. “We’ve only been jumping for about a week in Park City, and it would be nice to have a little more time on snow before we start competing.”
He said the U.S. Nordic combined skiers were going to watch the first events of the season on television.
“It’s a long season,” Jarrett said. “I don’t want to burn the guys out too early — especially in an Olympic year.”
Todd Lodwick plans to join the team Dec. 19 and 20 for a World Cup in Ramsau, Austria. He said he thinks the team’s approach to the season makes good sense.
“I’ve been in their shoes,” Lodwick said about American athletes who will be competing on the World Cup. “The first part of the season can be really long. The World Cup is important, but the real goal this season is the Olympics, and we can’t lose sight of that.”
Jarrett said the main skiers on the U.S. Nordic team will sit out at least three meets this season: the opener and two events in January leading up to the Olympic Games in Whistler, B. C.
“We still want to be competitive on the World Cup this season,” Jarrett said. “It’s not like we can just show up in Whistler and expect to win. But we need to take a strategic approach and make the most of our opportunities. We are building for the Olympics, and our goal is to bring home medals.”
Jarrett said the team is coming off of a solid summer of training and expects to be competitive out of the gates. However, several injuries could affect the early season results. The coach said Spillane, who missed nearly two months of training this summer, started jumping last week, and Eric Camerota, who has been sidelined with a major knee injury, is expected to be jumping again the first week of December.
“We had a rash of injuries in July,” Jarrett said. “It was difficult on the team, but I think we have been able to work around it for the most part.”
Jarrett said he was happy with Spillane’s return to the team last week. But he added that Spillane will ease back into competition and will be training through his first several meets. Jarrett said Camerota’s return also is well ahead of schedule, and he expects to have the Park City athlete back on the jump hill in December.
If all goes as planned, the U.S. team’s top athletes will be back in action in the next few weeks and ready for the Olympics in February.