American Nordic combined skier Todd Lodwick trains on the jump hill at Whistler Olympic Park on Sunday. The U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team will compete today in its final event of the Olympics, the large hill individual Gundersen event.

Photo by John F. Russell

American Nordic combined skier Todd Lodwick trains on the jump hill at Whistler Olympic Park on Sunday. The U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team will compete today in its final event of the Olympics, the large hill individual Gundersen event.

US Nordic Combined Ski Team ready for today’s final event

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What: Nordic combined large hill individual Gundersen medal event in Whistler, British Columbia

When: Today; the competition jumping round begins at 11 a.m. MST, the 10K cross-county race begins at 2 p.m. MST.

TV: NBC’s schedule indicates the Nordic combined competition will air on tape delay during the network’s 7 to 11 p.m. Olympic programming block.

Follow us: The Steamboat Pilot & Today will provide live updates of today’s event via its Twitter accounts (StmbtOlympics and Steamboatpilot), Facebook fan page and at www.steamboatpilot.com.

— The 2010 Winter Olympic Games are now down to one competitive jump and 10 kilometers of cross-country skiing for the members of the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team.

The third and final Nor­dic combined event of the Olympics gets under way today with an 11 a.m. MST competitive jumping round. That will be followed by a 2 p.m. 10-kilometer cross-country ski. Today’s event is the large hill individual Gundersen competition.

U.S. Nordic combined head coach Dave Jarrett hopes these Olympics, already the most successful for the U.S. team, will end with at least one more medal.

“The goal remains the same, we saw that (Tuesday) when Todd, Billy, Johnny and Brett were among the very best and that’s all you can ask for going into the race,” Jarrett said. “I think Johnny and Todd and Billy are ready to go tomorrow. I know Todd and Billy are motivated to have and individual medal just like Johnny, and I know Johnny is motivated to continue it.”

The U.S. team will look a little different in its final Olympic start. The core of the team — Johnny Spillane, Todd Lodwick and Billy Demong — will remain unchanged. But in an unselfish move, the fourth member of the silver-medal winning team, Brett Camerota, gave up his spot in today’s individual event so that 19-year-old Taylor Fletcher, of Steamboat Springs, can gain some valuable Olympic experience.

Fletcher, who has struggled with his jumping since arriving in Whistler, will end these games with two Olympic starts in two sports. He already competed in the special jumping team event Monday.

Fletcher said competing in the special jumping competition was a unique experience, but there is no question he wants a chance in his chosen sport of Nordic combined.

“It’s great that Brett (Cam­erota) has been an awesome teammate and allowed Taylor a start,” Jarrett said. “Hopefully, Taylor can just do his best — we know he can ski fast.”

The U.S.’s individual performances in Tuesday’s team event lends credence to the idea that some of their members have more than a shot at medaling today.

Lodwick’s jump of 136.5 meters was the second longest ride in the jumping portion of Tuesday’s competition. Finland’s Janne Ryynaenen went 138.5 meters and Japan’s Daito Takahaski matched Lodwick with a jump of 136.5 meters. Spil­­lane jumped 134 meters, and De­­mong jumped 131.5 meters.

Jarrett also expects his team to be fast on the cross-country course. He said his boys will be fully recovered from Tuesday’s short 5-kilometer race.

“We know the course really well, and we know where we need to be,” Jarrett said. “We just need to make sure tactically, if it comes down to a sprint, that we are either all by ourselves or in the right place to sprint. … Yesterday was a 5K — so that’s a 12- to 15-minute race — so that was a good opener. We are just going to do our normal pre-competition plan.”

Demong said the entire team is feeling pretty confident headed into today and that he expects to be in the hunt for an individual medal.

“I think we know that all of us have a chance for a medal in the individual event,” Demong said. “I think we are all looking forward to getting another event in and another chance to win a medal.”

He said he enters the final race with more confidence, and maybe a little different approach.

“The first race (normal hill Gundersen) was my first really good race of the year,” Demong said. “It was great to come from behind like I did and make things close at the end. But I may be a little more patient this time around, I may not go out so hard and see if I can save a little for the end.”

The U.S. team didn’t jump Wed­nes­­day and was expected to go through a light workout on the cross-country course late in the after­­noon. Most of the day was spent getting used to the weight of silver around their necks while simultaneously shedding the burden of past Olympic performances.

“Right now, the feeling is happiness, but it’s also relief that we did what we set out to do,” Jarrett said. “The weight has been lifted off of us, but at the same time we are already looking ahead to 2011. Now the expectations are even higher because of (the team finish at the World Championships in) Liberec and Whistler. It’s going to be a good World Championships in Oslo, Norway, next year … certainly we will have expectations there, as well.”

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