Billy Demong jumps during the final training session before the first Nordic combined competition of the 2014 Winter Olympics, set for Wednesday at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. The men's normal hill competition will open Nordic combined events for the Olympics. Demong hopes to add to his medal haul from the 2010 games, where he captured gold and silver.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Billy Demong jumps during the final training session before the first Nordic combined competition of the 2014 Winter Olympics, set for Wednesday at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. The men's normal hill competition will open Nordic combined events for the Olympics. Demong hopes to add to his medal haul from the 2010 games, where he captured gold and silver.

Nordic combined team eyes opening event

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— The U.S. Nordic combined team’s old nemesis continues to rear its ugly head.

Or in this case, its flatter, longer head.

2014 Winter Olympics

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The Americans again struggled on the jumping hill Tuesday at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.

The problem, among other elements, seems to be the takeoff point on the jump. Although no two are virtually the same, the one in Russia has proven even tougher than typical.

It’s flatter at takeoff, and so far, it’s a puzzle for the Americans.

“The hill comes at you quicker,” said Taylor Fletcher, who finished 49th, 50th and 41st in Tuesday’s final jumping practice. “You have to be ready to go. It doesn’t have much pressure on the curve, and it’s a false feeling. It’s coming along slowly but surely. We just hope we can produce a good jump on competition day.”

With the first Nordic combined event Wednesday (the trial round begins at 12:30 p.m. local time — 1:30 a.m. in Steamboat), the Americans better figure things out quickly if they want to have a shot at the medals.

On Tuesday, Billy Demong was the most consistent of the Americans, finishing 35th, 35th and 34th in his three practice jumps. Bryan Fletcher was 44th, 41st and 37th. Todd Lodwick skipped the first jump before finishing 45th and 33rd.

Lodwick, who will be five weeks removed from injuring his shoulder on the first competition day, is not expected to compete Wednesday.

“It’s a lot of combinations of everything,” Bryan Fletcher said. “It’s timing, directional push and all the extracurricular things going on in that movement and how you develop coming over the knoll. You have to find as many of them and try and get them to line up.”

With higher temperatures again Tuesday, the cross-country course should prove one of the most interesting elements.

The course likely will be soft and slushy, since temperatures aren’t expected to cool down. The soft snow should help skiers such as Demong and Taylor Fletcher, who are light on their feet.

Although the Americans already know what they can do on the cross-country course, these Olympic Games will come down to what they can do on the jumping hill.

“This (event) isn’t my strong suit,” Bryan Fletcher said. “Training so far hasn’t indicated anything that I should be overly hopeful for a medal (Wednesday). I’m focused on the best of what I can come out with.”

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

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