Whistler, British Columbia There’s no question that the members of the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team are off to a great start in the mountains of British Columbia, but head coach Dave Jarrett said the team isn’t satisfied.
“(Sunday) was a good day. It was really good for Johnny (Spillane),” Jarrett said Monday while traveling to Park City, Utah.
But Sunday’s historic race is behind them, and Jarrett is preparing the team for its next big test — the Nordic Combined Team Event, which is scheduled for Feb. 23 at Whistler Olympic Park.
Jarrett said the entire team packed its bags Sunday evening, and by early Monday morning the athletes were on a plane headed to Park City, where they will train before returning to Whistler on Saturday for official Olympic training on the large jump hill.
With training closed down at the Olympic facility for the next several days, the Americans weren’t alone in their decision to leave. Several other top teams are taking the opportunity to get away, including the strong Austrian, and Norwegian teams, who also left Whistler on Monday.
Jarrett is optimistic about his team’s chances after placing three skiers in the top six of Sunday’s Normal Hill Individual Gundersen event. Spillane stole the headlines by skiing away with the silver, but teammates Todd Lodwick and Billy Demong were also in the hunt, finishing fourth and sixth, respectively.
“We are very confident headed into the team event,” Spillane said. “This is a great team. We have five guys who are capable of having really good results.”
Lodwick lost the bronze by less than a second, and Demong overcame a sluggish jumping performance (24th) to post the third fastest cross-country time. He made up nearly a minute in the race and finished less than 20 seconds back.
“We didn’t have to do too much different, and we would have had two more guys on the podium,” Jarrett said. “There is no question that Billy and Todd are equally as capable of getting on the podium. I think everybody on this team has high motivation right now.”
The coach felt it was important for the team to get away from Whistler during the break in the schedule. It will allow the athletes to have more regular training, and being away from the hubbub of the Olympics will help keep the skiers focused.
“It’s pretty easy to get stale after two weeks sitting around in a hotel room,” Jarrett said.
In the Nordic combined team event, four athletes each take one jump on the large hill, with all the jumps counting toward the team’s final score. The team with the highest points will start the race first, and the remaining teams will start based on their jump scores — a difference of 45 jump points will translate to a one-minute penalty on the cross-country course at the Olympics. The cross-country portion will be a relay with each of the four skiers on a team completing a 5-kilometer leg.
Jarrett said he will wait until just before the race to name the four skiers who will be competing, and he’ll also make decisions about the order in which the athletes ski the cross-country race at the last minute.
Spillane, Lodwick and Demong should make up the core of the team. Brett Camerota, who had a solid week of jump training leading up to Sunday’s event, is the likely candidate for the final spot. Steamboat’s Taylor Fletcher is the team’s fifth member.
“Brett jumped very well last week and looked good for about 2 1/2 laps on the cross-country course,” Jarrett said. “The thing is that our best guys just have to be on their game, and our fourth skier is just going to have to have a good day.”
Jarrett said it’s difficult to make comparisons from Sunday’s normal hill event to what might happen in the team event. The competition will be held on a different jump hill, and his team rarely skis 5-kilometer races. Plus, after Sunday’s historic finish, it’s been proven that anything can happen at the Olympics.