Steamboat Springs On the same day that Joey Chestnut won his seventh-consecutive championship Thursday in the annual Coney Island hot dog eating contest, Todd Lodwick won his fourth-consecutive July Fourth Nordic combined event on the streets of his hometown of Steamboat Springs.
One accomplishment may be more American, but this one is definitely more Steamboat.
“It’s great to be in a town like Steamboat to showcase our sport on America’s greatest day of the year,” Lodwick said. “We get to celebrate this sport in this type of setting and that’s really cool.”
The event began with jumping competitions Wednesday and set the stage for Thursday’s race on Lincoln Avenue. As always, it thrilled wide-eyed spectators who flocked downtown for the Fourth of July parade and even locals, who beamed with pride at the town’s truly unique way of ringing in the nation’s birthday.
Lodwick, hoping to compete this winter in his sixth Olympic Games, started first after recording the best jump Wednesday, and he never relinquished his lead, finishing a three-lap course in 8 minutes, 15 seconds — five seconds faster than any other racer.
Billy Demong, a gold and silver medalist at the 2010 Olympics, was second, and 2010 Olympian Taylor Fletcher was third, in almost a dead heat with Demong.
The week of ski jumping and Nordic combined competition shined a light on plenty of local athletes on the U.S. Ski Team, and many hoping to someday reach that squad, as well.
None shined brighter than 12-year-old Decker Dean, who wowed all weekend with his prowess on the ski jumps. He won a Tuesday Ski Jumping Calcutta event, when young athletes were allowed to start higher on the hill to even them up with their Olympic-bound competition.
He then was tops in the qualification jumping Wednesday among the under-17 competitors and capped the weekend with a second-place finish in Thursday afternoon’s special jumping competition.
“It feels good. I trained well,” said Dean, who is heading into seventh grade. “I’m really light compared to all the other guys I was with, so that helped a lot.”
It wasn’t all about a size advantage, however.
“He’s got a great form right now and he’s one of our most dedicated athletes,” Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Nordic director Todd Wilson said. “The work is paying off.”
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com