2014 Winter Olympics
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Krasnaya Polyana, Russia It probably couldn’t be heard in Steamboat Springs. Maybe London, though.
The joyous shout Todd Lodwick let loose Sunday during the first Nordic combined training session at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Complex above Krasnaya Polyana, Russia, reverberated in the nearly empty stadium, letting all within earshot know Todd Lodwick was back, and he was feeling good.
“Amazing,” Lodwick said after the second of his two Sunday jumps. “That was a huge, huge boost of confidence, to get up there and know all the mental training had paid off.”
Mental training is what Lodwick has been limited to for most of the past month. He is trying to return from a horribly timed shoulder injury that threatened his ability to compete in what would be an American record sixth Winter Olympics.
He crashed during a preliminary round of jumping at a World Cup event Jan. 10, separating his shoulder and sustaining several fractures.
With almost exactly six weeks to go before the Feb. 20 Olympic team relay event, he immediately began an intensive recovery effort, and the U.S. team bought in. It placed Lodwick on the Olympic roster in hopes he could return for that relay event, where the U.S. hopes to build upon the silver medal it won in the event in 2010.
Now, it looks like that bet is paying off, perhaps even better than anticipated. Lodwick was thrilled with his two jumps in the training session and said he even may come back earlier than first expected, for the Feb. 18 large hill individual event.
His giving up on the first two individual events, leaving the United States with three skiers in each, initially was considered the price of having the veteran on the team. He’s definitely out for Wednesday’s Nordic combined Olympic opener, the normal hill event, though when pressed Sunday if he could compete right now, he offered a smile and a bit of confidence.
“Anything is possible,” he said. “I could probably compete today.”
“This is a feat a lot of people wouldn’t expect someone to do. It’s been stressful, but there’s been a lot of positive talk and to get up to the top of the jump with the help of the staff, who’s gotten me to this point, was amazing. I couldn’t have done it alone.”
Jumping the focus for team
Lodwick jumped in two of the day’s three training jumping rounds and went 77 meters on his initial try. He hit 86 on his second, a result that had him pumping his fist upon landing and shouting for all to hear as he skidded to a stop.
“Life goes on pause when you jump,” he said. “It’s very cool and addicting. To get up there and compete and get on that jump and go into competition mode is great.”
That results ranked him 45th for the round, packed tightly with his teammates, who have struggled at times on the hill this season.
On Sunday, both Bryan and Taylor Fletcher said they still were rounding into form ahead of Wednesday’s competition.
“I definitely still have work to do,” Taylor Fletcher said. “It’s just a matter of being confident you can get that good jump, and that is coming.”
Bryan, jumping three times, placed as high as 36th in a round and as low as 48th.
Taylor, meanwhile, hit his high on the second jump, finishing 42nd, and was 46 on the other two tries.
Billy Demong was 37th on his best and 43rd on both of the other attempts.
“I was struggling a little bit to find the rhythm, but it’s the first day of training, so I didn’t have any expectations,” said Bryan Fletcher, competing in his first Olympics. “We were trying a few things and hoping to get a feel of the hill. We did that and now we hope to go home, study it and make improvements.”
Soaking up Sochi
The team has been lying low since Friday’s thrilling opening ceremony, when Lodwick carried the flag for the United States and his teammates packed in behind him at the front of the large U.S. contingent as it entered the stadium.
They’ve been checking out other sports on TV, scoping out the Olympic venue and relaxing.
Lodwick, still glowing from his experience with the flag — “Probably the most amazing experience of my life,” he said — has been loving up every moment. Even the power breaker in his athlete’s village room flipping a half-dozen times hasn’t tainted the trip.
He was a popular interview Sunday, pulled aside by TV crews from near and far, and pulled in by a large group of print reporters. He seemed to enjoy it all.
“It’s been a very trying year,” he said. “I can’t believe I’m here.”