Whistler, British Columbia With a broad smile painted across his face, Todd Lodwick sprinted to the stands at Whistler Olympic Park, climbed a fence and jumped into the crowd to give his wife a kiss after the flower ceremony for the Nordic combined team event. The young women assigned to guide him to the media zone protested, but to no avail.
After 18 years, five Olympics and more setbacks than most athletes will see in a career, Lodwick finally had his medal, and he wasn’t about to let anybody tell him how to celebrate.
“I’m going to wear it everywhere,” Lodwick said about the silver medal the Americans won Tuesday in the Nordic combined team event. “It’s something that I feel like the team deserved. We’ve trained really hard for it. … I’m going to cherish this medal — this is a big one.”
Lodwick has been chasing an Olympic medal since he started having success on the Nordic combined World Cup tour in the late 1990s. After the event, coach Dave Jarrett said winning the medal was important to Lodwick and the entire U.S. team.
“It was big. Not only for Todd, but for Billy, Brett and Johnny. They have all been working for years and years and years,” Jarrett said. “I think Todd is excited because this is a big weight off of his shoulders, and I think that is going to help him, and everybody on the team, going into this next event.”
It’s been a long journey for the 33-year-old Lodwick, who has spent his career trying to get the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team to that next level. He came within sight of it in 2002 when the team finished second in the jumping portion of the Olympic team event but couldn’t hold on in the cross-country portion.
The Americans finished fourth that year.
Watch the U.S. Nordic combined team, including Steamboat Springs' own Todd Lodwick and Johnny Spillane, collect their silver medals Tuesday night in Vancouver during the medal ceremony.
The Steamboat Springs skier also had high hopes four years ago when he arrived in Turin, Italy. But Lodwick left the games frustrated. The best he could do was eighth- and ninth-place finishes in the individual event.
The Americans imploded in the team event and ended up in seventh place, nowhere near the Steamboat athlete’s goals. He watched the flower ceremony from just outside the venue and wondered what it would be like to be on the podium. It appeared that Lodwick would never have that chance, however, after he retired after the games.
But he could not stay away.
He returned after two years away from the team and last year collected two gold medals at the World Championships in Liberec, Czech Republic.
“There has never been a guy who deserved it more,” former coach Tom Steitz said after the race. “He carried this program for years, so it just seems right.”
But as right as Tuesday was, Steitz, who coached the U.S. Nordic combined team from 1988 to 2002, said there were more than a few tense moments as the American athletes watched the lead they held over the powerful Austrian and German teams disappear in the 20-kilometer relay race.
“That’s part of racing outdoors,” Johnny Spillane said about the U.S. team’s slower skis. “Felt really strong today, but we didn’t have unbelievable skis by any means. That makes it that much harder, but that’s part of racing outside.”
It was a similar story to 2002, when the Americans’ fate was tied to slow skis. However, this time the more experienced Americans were able to overcome the challenges and collect silver.
“Todd’s been to five Olympics, and this is a great payoff for him,” said Bill Marolt, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team’s president and CEO. “This is really neat affirmation of everything he’s done, and you can say the same thing about the other guys. They’ve all had some really tough challenges in their careers. Todd retired, Billy took a year off because of his head injury, and Johnny has had multiple shoulder and knee surgeries. They battled through all that stuff, and they’re here.”
Jarrett said Tuesday was a great day for the American team, which was able to live up to its own expectations and win silver on the team’s own terms, and on its own merit.
“We finally lived up to what we are capable of,” Jarrett said. “I think that Todd was happy for the program when Johnny won, and I think that he is happy to have gotten his own medal.”