USSA cuts funding for Nordic combined
April 15, 2014
Steamboat Springs — 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.
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"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.'"