Thursday, February 24, 2011
2011 Nordic combined World Championship schedule
Saturday — Individual normal hill Gundersen
Monday — Team normal hill
Wednesday — Individual large hill Gundersen
March 4 — Team large hill
Steamboat Springs Post-Olympic hangovers, baby blues, knee injuries and family time may have tempered expectations for the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team as it enters the 2011 World Championships in Oslo, Norway.
And for good reason.
Team members Billy Demong and Johnny Spillane had children in the past year. Spillane battled another knee injury, and stalwart Todd Lodwick spent lots of quality time with his family. This all led to an un-American-like season on the World Cup. The Americans registered just three top-10 finishes on the World Cup circuit, two from Lodwick and one from Bryan Fletcher.
But as the 2011 World Championships are set to begin Saturday and continue through March 4 — with Demong, Spillane, Lodwick, and Bryan and Taylor Fletcher making up the team — don’t tell the Americans they don’t have a chance.
“I think we still have four guys who can realistically win medals,” Spillane said. “Todd is jumping well, Bryan has been consistent all year long, and both Bill and I are coming into our own at the right time. Having said that, it is no gimme, and everyone needs to perform their best in order for it to happen.”
The competition begins with an individual normal hill event Saturday. There also will be a normal hill team competition Monday, an individual large hill event Wednesday and a large hill team competition March 4.
“We are as ready as we can be,” coach Dave Jarrett said. “Obviously, the season has not been the way we have had in the past. However, Bryan Fletcher has had a breakout season, and Taylor has also continued to improve. … Billy and Todd are coming around, and Johnny is also getting closer. We are expecting everyone to perform their bests and will let the results take care of themselves.”
Bryan Fletcher could be the one to watch. Fletcher was consistent throughout the year and registered a career-best eighth-place finish in Ramsau, Austria, at a December event.
Should Fletcher ski well, the Americans could have a shot in the team event and have four members who can finish in the top 10.
“I do think the team is coming into good form now for the World Championships,” Bryan Fletcher said. “Realistically, our expectations are not what they were last year, but they are still set high. I think we are still very capable of medaling on a good day.”
The Austrians, Germans and Norwegians are considered favorites in the team event. France’s Jason Lamy-Chappuis is leading the overall World Cup standings, with Norway’s Mirko Kokslien second and Austria’s Felix Gottwald third.
Lodwick is the top American in the World Cup standings in 24th.
— To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org