Bill Demong jumps during the Nordic combined team relay competition at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia, in February. The United States Ski and Snowboard Association announced on Monday that it will no longer fund the U.S. Nordic combined team.

Joel Reichenberger/file

Bill Demong jumps during the Nordic combined team relay competition at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia, in February. The United States Ski and Snowboard Association announced on Monday that it will no longer fund the U.S. Nordic combined team.

USSA cuts funding for Nordic combined

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— The United States Ski and Snowboard Association announced on Monday that it will no longer fund the U.S. Nordic combined team.

Luke Bodensteiner, USSA vice president of athletics, said Tuesday that the USSA began to look at the way they allocate resources after the Vancouver Olympics.

With the advent of more sports, he said the decision was made to adopt a different funding model for Nordic combined.

The team will continue to be funded until July 31. After that point, USSA will just fund the top athletes. The USSA currently funds a dozen disciplines.

Bodensteiner said he wasn’t sure how much top athletes would be funded, but it would be a model similar to men’s and women’s ski jumping, skier cross and snowboard parallel giant slalom and slalom.

Donations to USSA also could be earmarked for Nordic combined for the first time.

“We’re in a period right now where we’re putting our best efforts in finding donors and sponsors to attach to Nordic combined,” Bodensteiner said.

The news comes with the team in flux. Longtime stalwart Todd Lodwick announced his retirement following the 2014 Olympic Games.

Brothers Bryan and Taylor Fletcher remain as lynchpins for the upcoming season, which also will include 2010 Olympic gold medalist Billy Demong. Demong, though, likely won’t ski through the next Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

The development team also had a strong season but remains unproven.

“We haven’t stopped spinning from the news,” Demong said. “We have to turn that into solution making.”

Bodensteiner said when they do the budgeting process there is a multitude of factors that go into it. He said the size of the sport, public relevance, future potential, participation and number of members among other things went into the decision. Results in World Cups and future teams also are part of the equation.

Although the 2014 Olympic games ended in disappointment, in the past eight years the sport has evolved to unprecedented levels. In addition to winning four medals at the 2010 Olympics, the team combined to win six World Championship medals since 2007.

“The dust hasn’t settled yet, but certainly from the outset it’s a devastating blow,” Demong said. “We need to get in a position to turn the tide a bit.”

Funding the Nordic combined team has proven expensive, with no World Cups in the United States. Bodensteiner said in a typical year, funding was between $580,000 and $650,000.

Throughout an Olympic cycle, he said the cost was near $3 million. Funding from the USSA helped with equipment, travel, lodging, food, coaches and wax tech salaries.

“I think it’s not going to be easy for guys like Taylor and Bryan,” Bodensteiner said. “It’s likely a big change over. It’s not going to be the smoothest next couple of months or season. It’s going to be a big challenge.”

Although Bodensteiner wasn’t sure how much top individuals would be funded, the Fletcher brothers said they’ve been told between them and Demong they would get funding between $40,000 and $50,000 next year.

“I could be looking at very big loans to pay for the World Cup season,” Bryan said. “I haven’t figured out a number. I’ll wait for July and hope for the best and see what funding is allotted for us.”

Demong has done a lot of fundraising for the National Nordic Foundation, which helps fund the development team, and said the news may change his career plans. He didn’t say he would retire, but the news may force him in that direction.

“I’ve had a pretty good run,” he said. “To me it really discourages the legacy we worked so hard to build. It has had its head cut off.”

Still, Demong said, it could turn into a positive situation. He said the team will reconvene later this week and work on fundraising ideas. He said it could turn out for the better.

“There is an opportunity for sure,” Demong said. “We have to do some pointed work. We could end up better off. I told the guys (Monday) after the meeting, ‘Go train. The best thing you can do is get better at the sport.’”

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229, email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @LukeGraham

Comments

Scott Wedel 8 months, 1 week ago

Well, that makes it tough for local athletes, but when you have a sport that is not in the X Games or otherwise on notable TV broadcasts except for a couple days every 4 years then it is hardly surprising.

And the roster of athletes shows the sport is in trouble. The 2014 Olympic trials had the 10th placed competitor 5 minutes behind in a 25 minute race. In a more popular sport such as running, there will be hundreds of competitors able to finish within 5 minutes of the winner in a 25 minute race.

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Cresean Sterne 8 months, 1 week ago

We need to do better in the jumping field. That is what hurt us at Sochi. We jumped great in Vancouver giving us a great start for the sprint. Poor jumping in Sochi put us to far back in the sprint line up against great sprinters. Almost imposible to come back from that distance. We have a world known jump hill in our back yard so jumping should be our stong suit but we seem to struggle there. Great effort for all of them. Nordic Combined is one of the most difficult and grueling winter events. Hope to see most of them back in Soul. :~)

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Cresean Sterne 8 months, 1 week ago

It does suprise me that the USSA is dropping funding in an event that we medaled in 4 yrs ago. We have also done quite well in the national and world events where the European and Japanese have dominated since forever. Now that the Americans are showing great promise they loose funding....Pretty Crappy!!!

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Scott Wedel 8 months, 1 week ago

At Vancouver we had 3 athletes that were world champions. For Sochi, 37 year old Todd Lodwick won the US Olympic trials. Todd is great, but by age 37 there really should be a younger generation kicking his butt.

And with the highest ranked US athlete being 18th in World Cup standings then a hard nosed analysis would say the current team is unlikely to win a World Championship.

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jerry carlton 8 months, 1 week ago

Unless you play football, baseball, basketball, or hockey, playing for a living is not always easy.

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