John F. Russell: Heeeere’s Tommy

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John Russell

John Russell's sports column appears Sundays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by John here.

Editor’s note: Universal Sports couldn’t give exact times or shows that Tom Steitz will appear during the Olympics. They said he will act as a Nordic analyst and could be on several of the station’s shows and at different times of the day throughout the Olympics.

Tom Steitz is that little voice in your head that never seems to go away.

It’s kind of like the voice that reminds you of that important 2 p.m. meeting at work while you sip your morning coffee, or makes you wonder if you locked the front door of your house as you drive down the block. Lucky for me, I rarely hear that voice at night because I snore.

For years, Tom’s voice would not let me forget about the U.S. Nordic Combined Team. It showed up every time an American skier, a guy like Todd Lodwick, Billy Demong, Johnny Spillane, Ryan Heckman, Dave Jarrett or Tim Tetreault, collected a top result or even one that ranked near the top 20.

When I first met Tom, he was working as the head coach of the U.S. Nordic Combined Team. At the time, he was trying to build interest in a sport that most Americans knew nothing about.

He knew his teams had the talent to reach World Cup and Olympic greatness, and he thought that with enough support and money, the interest in the sport of Nordic combined skiing would continue to grow. He knew that if he wanted to move the sport forward, he needed to get writers to report the finishes, and whenever he got the chance to promote the sport through news stories, television shows and public forums, he did so.

He retired after the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, but Tom never has really left the sport.

He coached Lodwick leading up to the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy, and you still will find him sitting in front of the computer in the wee hours of the morning looking for the latest results.

I’m glad to say I still hear his voice when the Americans do well, and I know if I pick up the phone whenever Todd, Billy or Johnny find their way into the international spotlight, he will have something to say.

He no longer coaches, but Tom still promotes the sport as if he were leading the team. This month, Tom will be at the Olympics once again, but this time he will be in a different role: that of Nordic sports analyst for Universal Sports.

Tom will be part of a television show produced by Universal Sports, scheduled to run each day of the Olympics from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. that will review action from the previous day, with extended highlights, results, interviews and analysis. It also will include previews of upcoming events and roundtable sessions with guests, newsmakers, athletes and analysts. In Steamboat, the Olympic coverage will be carried on Channel 250 each day of the games.

Tom says he isn’t seeking notoriety.

For him, this is just another opportunity to promote the sport he loves and to act as that little voice that reminds us all what Nordic combined and the Olympics are about.

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