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Local venues host Nordic combined Cup

Paul Robbins Special to the Record

U.S. coaches and athletes will have a better idea by Saturday Night – after two days of World Cup-B competition – how things are shaping up for the Nordic combined Olympic Team in Torino, Italy, in February.

The Homestead Resort Nordic Combined World Cup-B includes two days of action with jumping at Utah Olympic Park and cross-country ski racing at Soldier Hollow. Huge fields will include a hefty handful of Americans trying to qualify for the Olympic Team, which won’t be announced until Jan. 16 and could contain up to six athletes.

Todd Lodwick, who’s home for the holidays from the World Cup (or World Cup-A, as some call it) as wife Sunny is into the final month of pregnancy with their first child, dominated two events last weekend in Steamboat Springs, Colo. He, former sprint world champion Johnny Spillane – nursing a dislocated right shoulder, which will be operated on in the spring — and two-time Olympian Bill Demong are locks for the Olympics; who will fill the next two or three spots on the Olympic Team will be determined, at least in part, this weekend.

The first competition of the Homestead events was a sprint Friday, which concluded too late for presstime. Saturday, the combiners – who include a mix of up-and-comers and veterans trying to reclaim a spot on the World Cup tour – will face a mass-start. The sprint includes one round of jumping and a 7.5-kilometer race; the mass start is a 10K race followed by jumping.

"These are important events. There’s a lot on the line," said U.S. Head Coach Bard Elden, "and with all nations looking to pick Olympic Teams, there’s a huge field here.

"That makes it tougher, of course, but that’s okay because our athletes need to up their production, need to be building toward that peak in February. They have to step up; it’s that simple."

While Lodwick blew everyone away in each comp last weekend, the other Yanks – with the notable exception of Park City’s Eric Camerota, who hung-up two top-10 results – fizzled.

Elden doesn’t want to over-react to the sputtering, but he won’t ignore it, either.

"It’s only two events," he said Thursday night, "and we’ve got more to go, but we need to be more competitive, certainly more competitive than we showed in Steamboat."

"These are major events, and then we go to Lake Placid [N.Y.] next week for two final events Tuesday and Wednesday, so we’ll have quite a bit determined before Christmas. Eric’s been pretty solid, but behind him it hasn’t been as strong as we were planning."

Veterans Jed Hinkley and Carl Van Loan, two 2002 Olympians although they didn’t compete, are battling with Brett Camerota for the last Olympic berths. But, with none of them sparkling so far, an unknown could pop in with a couple of good results and upset the expected balance.

"Brett’s made small steps all through the summer, but he hasn’t been able to put together his best jumps in any competition. We know Carl can jump better than he’s shown but he’s not even close to where he should be, and Jed can do better…but these guys haven’t produced it yet, so we’ll need to see something from someone over these next four competitions," Elden said.

Elden said machinemade snow has the UOP jumps in excellent shape and machinemade snow also is the backbone of cover on the Olympic trails at Soldier Hollow. "The trails are in outstanding shape," he said, "so we’re ready to go."

He added, "It’s still a long way to the Olympics, but we’ve got to start stepping up…and we’ve got to do it this week."

In a related development, he said Spillane, who has lived in Park City since the combined team relocated from Steamboat Springs after the 2002 season, had returned to ski jumping and was doing some light cross-country skiing. He needs full reconstructive surgery to fix his right shoulder, which was reinjured in a training crash in Finland last month, but has said he would do that after the season because surgery now would keep him out of his third Olympics.

"Johnny’s jumping and he’s learning to manage, to deal with, the pain in his shoulder when he [cross-country] skis," the coach said. "He’s getting stronger every day."


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