Steamboat Springs Nordic combined skier Todd Lodwick rides up the chair lift at the Whistler Olympic Park for Friday afternoon's training round. Lodwick and his teammates on the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team, are busy preparing for their first event, the normal hill individual Gundersen, on Sunday.

Photo by John F. Russell

Steamboat Springs Nordic combined skier Todd Lodwick rides up the chair lift at the Whistler Olympic Park for Friday afternoon's training round. Lodwick and his teammates on the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team, are busy preparing for their first event, the normal hill individual Gundersen, on Sunday.

Olympic skiers handle rain, broken ski in training Friday

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— Many of the athletes taking part in Friday afternoon’s wet and rain-soaked Nordic combined training would describe the day as ugly, but after a close call on the starting bar, scary might be the preferred word for U.S. Nordic combined skier Johnny Spillane.

“It’s really good that I didn’t jump,” the Steamboat Springs native said after discovering that the front part of his binding had pulled away from his ski. “It could have been really bad.”

Fortunately, Spillane looked down as he pushed out onto the start bar for his second jump and saw that he had a problem.

“I’ve noticed the last few days that my ski has felt fairly weird,” Spillane said. “I’ve been looking at the bottom tying to figure out what is going on. The second jump I was getting on the bar, and I looked down … and the whole front of the binding had ripped off.”

Spillane slid back off the bar and headed to the bottom of the hill where he quickly prepared his backup skis in time for the third and final round of Friday’s training.

“It’s going to be tough because the skis I broke are much different than these,” Spillane said. “I’m hoping to get some more jumps (today) and get a little better feel for them.”

Spillane and teammate To­dd Lod­wick were the only American skiers who took part in Friday’s official training. Billy Demong and Brett Camerota, who jumped well in Thursday’s training, were absent from the event. First-time Olympian Taylor Fletcher also missed the training session because he was taking part in Friday night’s opening ceremonies at BC Place in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Spillane jumped 95 meters on his first attempt and followed with a distance of 95.5 meters on his third jump. Lodwick jumped 94 meters on his first jump and 95.5 meters on his second. He elected to skip the third round.

“Training has been OK,” Lodwick said. “It’s been a little inconsistent with the weather. It comes and goes pretty much the same for everybody. Cross-country has been great.”

Lodwick said the rain has been difficult to get used to on the jump hill and has probably had the biggest impact on his training to this point.

“I’m just not used to rain coming from Steamboat,” Lodwick said.

The team will have one more day of training before Sunday’s one-jump, 10-kilometer individual Gundersen event on the normal hill. It will be the first of three Nordic combined events at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

“Besides the weather, everything is fantastic,” Lodwick said. “I’m sleeping well, we are having a lot of fun in the Olympic Village and everything is upbeat, and none of us are stressing too bad. We’ve had a few minor things with the skis. I broke a pair of skis yesterday, and Johnny broke a pair today, but I’m excited.”

Coach Dave Jarrett said the training has been going well and that things seem to be on track.

“Taylor is a little star struck, but that’s understandable. He’s here for the first time. Todd, Billy and Johnny have done it plenty of times,” Jarrett said. “We got here Monday into Vancouver, did the processing. We were in Whistler Tuesday afternoon and had our first jumping yesterday. We are good to go.”

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