Todd Lodwick punches ticket to Sochi
When you have a 36-second head start at a 10-kilometer cross-country ski race like Todd Lodwick had on Saturday afternoon at the Utah Olympic Park, you know a win is well within reach.
And when you’re about to clinch an Olympic spot, as Lodwick had done five times previously before Saturday’s 2014 Sochi Olympic qualifiers, you know how to celebrate while skiing down the home stretch.
After a strong jump in the ski jumping portion of Saturday’s Nordic combined Olympic qualifier, Lodwick took advantage of his sizable head start, never letting teammates Bryan Fletcher or Billy Demong get within 15 seconds of him as he cruised to the finish line in style, pumping his fists, blowing kisses to the crowd and smiling from ear to ear.
"Today, there was a lot on the line," Lodwick said after the race. "And to be in front of so many supportive friends, family and people who have come from so far to cheer us on is overwhelming. For me today to put the emotional side away and compete at my best is very humbling."
Though the celebration started early, Lodwick said he wasn’t taking anything for granted during the first 3.75 laps of the four-lap, 10-kilometer race.
"I was trying to get to the finish line," he said. "The race isn’t over until it’s over. I could’ve picked the wrong skis, or been hurting out there and not in shape. Today was not an easy day with the weather and the course it’s not an easy course."
But, Lodwick was able to hold off the second-place Fletcher and third-place Demong, securing his spot in the history books. This will be the 37-year-old’s sixth Olympic appearance, the most ever by any U.S. Winter Olympic athlete.
"It’s definitely a monkey off my back being able to say I’m going to my sixth Olympic Games," he said. "There was no question in my mind [after the 2010 Vancouver Games] I wanted to go and make my sixth Olympic Games and make history."
Demong said he’s come to expect these sorts of performances from Lodwick in North America.
"I’m never surprised by what Todd pulls off at home," he said. "He certainly has proven time and time again to never count him out, especially in Park City or Steamboat [Springs]. He usually finds a lot of extra motivation competing in front of his family and friends."
Lodwick hopes he’ll be able to carry that extra motivation into Sochi, where the member of the 2010 silver-medal 4x5K relay team still hopes to check another item off his career to-do list.
"I don’t have an individual medal," he said. "To tell you the truth, finishing fourth in [Vancouver] by seven-tenths of a second that one stung and still stings when I talk about it. To train 20 years for something and come up seven-tenths of a second short, I mean, come on, really?"
For Fletcher, Demong and the rest of the U.S. Nordic combined team, it’s back to Europe to try to secure an Olympic spot via World Cup results. But Fletcher is still confident in his Olympic chances.
"Second place is awesome," he said. "I’ve had a good season so far. I definitely wasn’t my best on the jump hill today, but overall, I was pretty strong. It’s another solid race in the books for me."
Lodwick can’t wait to see who will be joining him in Sochi, since, as he said, it’s all about the team.
"In the end, I need these guys to be in Sochi, too," he said. "We’ve been training hard together and pushing each other. Today, I was the best. But we’re going to have a really strong team in Sochi."
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The soccer tournaments run from July 29 through July 31.