Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Pragelato, Italy In his mind, Todd Lodwick has been on an Olympic podium 100 times. But on Tuesday, the goal he has chased since he first strapped into a pair of jumping skis eluded him a final time.
Steamboat Springs' four-time Olympian finished ninth in the Nordic combined sprint event Tuesday, 32.8 seconds short of earning the Olympic medal he so coveted.
"You set your mind to something and you have four chances," Lodwick said as he tried to hold back tears. "It's hard to put down that you didn't fulfill a goal you have had your entire career. I've been Olympic champion 100 times in my head, it's just a matter of doing it. I've been on top of the podium six times and on the podium 35 times. You would just hope that one of those times was at the Olympic Games."
Lodwick's fate was sealed during the morning jumping session, which was plagued by swirling winds that made jumping difficult for most of the 48 Nordic combined athletes. Lodwick was visibly disappointed after jumping 121.5 meters in the only official round of the sprint event.
The Nordic combined sprint event combines ski jumping and cross-country skiing. Athletes are allowed one jump, and that jump is used to handicap the 7.5-kilometer cross-country ski race held later in the day.
"I've trained as hard as I could these past four years, and it comes down to seven seconds on a jump, and I didn't have it today," Lodwick said. "It was no one else's fault but my own."
Steamboat's Johnny Spillane was 14th after the jumping portion of the event, Lodwick was 19th, Bill Demong was 30th, and Eric Camerota was 40th. Spillane started the cross-country race more than a minute behind the leaders.
"You feel a little bit behind the eight ball when you start that far back," U.S. coach Dave Jarrett said. "You don't want to be there after the jumping, but you've got to do the race. You never know what will happen."
Germany's Georg Hettich, who won the Nordic combined individual event on the opening day of the Olympic Games, led the field with a jump of 133.5 meters. France's Jason Lamy Chappuis was in second after the jumping portion, and Finland's Anssi Koivurant was in third.
The fastest cross-country skier on Tuesday was Austria's Felix Gottwald, who fought back from 12th place to win the race -- and the gold medal. Norway's Magnus Moan took silver, and Hettich held on for bronze.
For the Americans, Tuesday's event represented another failed attempt to medal in a Nordic combined event. Still, the team rebounded from poor jumping performances with a strong showing in the cross-country race. Lodwick finished ninth overall, Spillane was 10th, and Demong was 25th.
"It was really nice to go out and be myself again," Spillane said. "My goal was to go out and ski my own race. I didn't really focus on where I was in jumping or where I was in the pack. I just wanted to go out and ski fast from start to finish, and that's what I did today. I'm really happy with that."
For Lodwick, the finish was not a total disappointment. He wrapped up his fourth and final Olympic Games with two top-10 individual finishes and the knowledge that he is the best American of his time.
"The Olympic Games will not define me as an athlete or who I am," Lodwick said. "It would always be nice to have a little hardware to take home with you. ... I just wish I would have accomplished that goal of winning any medal."