Billy Demong hits a training jump Saturday at Whistler Olympic Park in British Columbia. He and his U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team teammates are scheduled to compete in an individual event Sunday.

Photo by John F. Russell

Billy Demong hits a training jump Saturday at Whistler Olympic Park in British Columbia. He and his U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team teammates are scheduled to compete in an individual event Sunday.

Nordic combined competition opens today in Whistler

Demong, Americans seem relaxed before first competition at 2010 Winter Olympics

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Steamboat Springs Nordic combined skier Todd Lodwick takes a training jump at Whistler Olympic Park during Olympic training.

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Steamboat Springs Nordic combined skier Taylor Fletcher takes a training jump at Whistler Olympic Park during Olympic training. Fletcher, a first-time Olympian, is hoping to shake off some pre-Olympic nerves and get his shot to compete in an event at the 2010 Olympic Games. Coach Dave Jarrett wouldn't confirm his starting lineup for today's individual Gundersen event, but odds are that Johnny Spillane, Todd Lodwick, Billy Demong and Brett Camerota will get the starting spots.

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Steamboat Springs Nordic combined skier Johnny Spillane jumps in Saturday's Nordic combined training at the Whistler Olympic Park . Spillane and his teammates on the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team are busy preparing for their first event, the normal hill individual Gundersen, which will take place today.

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American Nordic combined skier Brett Camerota looks toward the landing on his first training jump Saturday afternoon at Whistler Olympic Park north of Vancouver, British Columbia. The members of the promising U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team are optimistic about today's individual Gundersen normal hill event.

On TV

Noon to 5 p.m. today: Nordic combined, luge, speed skating and biathlon. Nordic combined ski jumping starts at 11 a.m., biathlon is at 12:15, luge and the women’s 3,000-meter speed skating are at 2 p.m., and Nordic combined individual normal hill cross-country is at 2:45 p.m.

Online

Get updates, photos, stories and more from the 2010 Winter Olympics at www.steamboatpilot.com/olympics. Follow us on Twitter@StmbtOlympics.

— He was less than 24 hours from one of the biggest races of his life, but U.S. Nordic combined skier Billy Demong wasn’t about to let the anticipation keep him awake Saturday night.

The medal contender confidently walked through the media corral leading out of the finish area, and if he was nervous, it wasn’t reflected by the expressions on his face or the words coming from his mouth.

“The nice thing about the Olympics is that it is the same guys you compete with all the time,” Demong said. “Knowing that your family and friends and the whole word is watching doesn’t mean you can’t sleep.”

Demong joined teammates Johnny Spillane, Todd Lodwick, Brett Camerota and Taylor Fletcher for Saturday’s final normal hill training session. Demong, Lodwick and Camerota posted long rides and seemed primed for today’s normal hill individual Gundersen event. Spillane jumped well, but looked like he still was still trying to get comfortable on his new skis.

During today’s event, the athletes will compete in a trial jump and one that counts on the smaller of the two hills at Whistler Olympic Park in the morning. In the afternoon, the skiers will move to the nearby Olympic cross-country course for a 10-kilometer pursuit race.

The top three skiers at the end of the race will claim Olympic glory, and the rest of the field will begin preparing for the team and large hill events later in the Olympics.

On Saturday, Demong had jumps of 102 and 103 meters on his final rides, and Lodwick went 96.5 on his first effort and then backed it up with an effort of 103 meters — it was his best jump of the week.

Camerota also looked strong. He skipped Friday’s training but returned Saturday for one last tune-up.

“I took yesterday off because the first three jumps were good, and when you have good feeling you just want to get into the competition,” Camerota said Saturday. “I’m taking three more jumps today and so far two good jumps, so I’m ready for tomorrow.”

Camerota was on track again Saturday with jumps of 95 and 102.5 meters. He elected to skip his third and final jump after leaving the media area.

Steamboat’s Taylor Fletcher still was trying to shake off his Olympic nerves and finished with jumps of 78.5, 84 and 83.5 meters. Coaches hope the young athlete will get more comfortable on the jump hill as the Olympics progress.  

Head coach Dave Jarrett would not commit to naming the four skiers who will start the first Nordic combined event when asked Friday, but based on training it looks like Steamboat’s Lodwick, Spillane, Demong and Camerota, of Park City, Utah, will get the spots.

Spillane and Lodwick still were making a few adjustments in Saturday’s training round after breaking skis at training during the week. Spillane’s binding pulled away from his favorite skis during Friday’s training, and he clearly was frustrated Saturday as he attempted to get used to the new skis.

“I’m still trying to get used to the skis. I just need to have a little bit better jumps,” Spillane said after his second training jump. “I’m in the ballpark for sure, but I need to get a couple more meters.”

Demong said the athletes on the team are trying to treat the Olympic events like any other World Cup competition. He planned to spend Saturday night watching a movie and then chilling before today’s main event.

Lodwick also was relaxed in the final day of training. He said he’s getting along well with his new skis and after having his best jump of the week seemed confident as he looked forward to his fifth Olympic appearance.

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