Luke Graham: An emotional day
February 21, 2014
Krasnaya Polyana, Russia — It started no different than any other day at the Olympics.
"Look at what you have to cover, want to cover and do it," I told myself.
Then Thursday unfolded in a way I had never expected.
I was as emotional as I've ever been covering an event. It was a strange feeling. There is a certain pride that goes into journalism and the ability to take your emotions, hush them, squash preconceived notions and ideas and just report.
Ideally you don't want A or B to happen. You want the best story to take A and B and make it flow on paper.
The status quo in sports journalism is you don't root for teams, but stories. Bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, two outs is always better than the home team winning by 15.
I knew the U.S. Nordic combined team didn't have much of a shot at the medals. If they were going to make a dash at the medal, that would be a great story. I figured it would be a career retrospective on Billy Demong and Todd Lodwick.
But between the jumping portion of Thursday's event and the cross-country section, emotions crept in. My face got puffy and tears pushed at my eye sockets.
It was the realization that the people that had taught me to appreciate the sport of Nordic combined — the lonely days of training, the ups and downs of competition, the unknowing and always guessing of tapering — were going to be done.
It's hard to express what Nordic combined has actually meant.
Seven years ago when I started working in Steamboat, I knew as much about Nordic combined as I did about rocket science.
But there always was something enticing about it. It combines a lot of what we, as sports fans, love. It's two sports rolled into one. It's high speeds, flying and racing.
It felt like the end to an era Thursday with Demong and Lodwick walking away from Olympic competition.
It wasn't long ago, at the 2007 U.S. Championships in Steamboat, Johnny Spillane took a solid 25 minutes and gave me a crash course on the sport.
It wasn't something he had to do. But he did.
As the years have passed, Demong has explained little nuances of racing and techniques on the jump hill.
It's these interactions that made Thursday tough. U.S. Nordic combined will continue to go on — led by Taylor and Bryan Fletcher and a slew of younger jumpers — but it felt like reading an obituary of sorts Thursday.
It made it emotional.
In four years, two of Nordic combined's constants won't be there.
That made Thursday emotional.