Skiers hold Olympic focus | SteamboatToday.com

Skiers hold Olympic focus

Lodwick returns to World Cup competition the next 2 weekends

Todd Lodwick, from left, Johnny Spillane and Bill Demong stand on the podium at the U.S. Winter Olympic Team Trials last month at Howelsen Hill. The three skiers will be back together this weekend at a World Cup event at Val di Fiemme, Italy.

— With a little less than 40 days to go before the start of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, the members of the U.S. Nordic Combined Team will have a reunion, of sorts, this weekend in Italy.

"We are excited about the next two weekends," head coach Dave Jarrett said.

Those will be a couple of the few times this season when the coach will have all three of his top skiers at the same event. For him, and the team, it will be a chance to see how the American athletes stack up against the rest of the world in the race for Olympic medals.

Last weekend, Spillane and Bill Demong were on hand for a World Cup event in Oberhof, Germany.

Spillane won Sunday's event, with Demong coming in 13th. Brett Camerota (31st), Taylor Fletcher (32nd) and Alex Miller (43rd) filled the remaining spots for the Americans at the World Cup event.

But Jarrett said the lineup for this weekend's events in Val di Fiemme, Italy, would look a little different because of the addition of Todd Lodwick, who has been at home. Jarrett said the four-time Olympian and two-time world champion would compete the next two weekends. He also is expected to represent the United States in Chaux Neuve, France, the next weekend.

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"These are check-in competitions for Todd," Jarrett said. "It's a chance for him to see where he is. … It will also give him a mental picture of where he stands against the world's best skiers going into the Olympics."

The final two stops will be the last for the U.S. Ski Team's top skiers. The team plans to use the final few weeks before the start of the Olympics to train in Park City, Utah.

However, Jarrett said the B team skiers and juniors are likely to continue competing in World Cup and Continental Cup events in Europe. The juniors on the team also will compete in the World Junior Championships scheduled for Jan. 27 to 31 in Hinterzarten, Germany.

Spillane's early season success has been encouraging for the team as it prepares for the Olympics.

"Johnny is an inspiration to everyone," Jarrett said. "It helps to have everyone up there — the more, the merrier."

A year ago, Spillane was battling to find the spotlight, and he spent most of his summer dealing with injuries. But that seems to be behind him now.

"Johnny is a testament to hard work and believing in yourself," Jarrett said. "The main thing is that he trusted the program and himself and did the work."

Jarrett said he thinks the entire U.S. Nordic Combined Team has bought into that work ethic and has the same trust in the program as skiers look forward to the Olympics.

Lodwick has been solid in World Cup events this season, placing in the top 10 of all three events he has started. He also won two Continental Cup meets in Park City last month.

Demong also has been solid, but is still looking for the race that led to gold at last year's World Championships.

"Billy is happy with his jumping and happy with about 80 percent of his races, but he hasn't had a race that he feels awesome about," Jarrett said. "We hope it is coming."

The coach said it's nice to have top World Cup results, but right now the team is focused on the big picture.

"It was a good feeling, especially in Oberhof where we have big crowds," Spillane said about winning his first World Cup. "But our main focus is still the Olympics, and we are spending all of our time focusing on what we can do better to be more prepared for that."

— To reach John F. Russell, call 871-4209 or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

— Joel Reichenberger contributed to this story.

Spillane’s face heads for New York

U.S. Nordic combined skier Johnny Spillane may live in Steamboat Springs, but his image will have a new home at Grand Central Terminal in New York.

Corby Fisher, president and CEO of Caliber Sports Enterprises LLC, which represents Spillane, said the Steamboat athlete would be featured on a billboard as part of a promotion by Visa through which contestants can win tickets to the Olympics for life. The billboard is expected to be installed soon and will be displayed during the 2010 Olympic Games.