LIBEREC, Czech Republic (Feb. 22) - In an historic day for the USA, Todd Lodwick (Steamboat Springs, CO) took his second World Championship gold and teammate Billy Demong (Vermontville, NY) took the bronze during the 2009 FIS Nordic Ski World Championships in Liberec. The USA is leading the medals count with three gold and a silver after eight of 20 events.
Lodwick and Demong's performance marks the first time two U.S. nordic combined athletes have made the World Championship podium together. It was the second of four nordic combined events at the Championships, featuring a single jump on the 100 meter hill and a 10K cross country race.
"I think the most important thing about today, and probably the coolest, is that I am able to share this podium with another teammate," Lodwick said. "I cannot believe I get to share this World Championship podium with a teammate."
Todd Lodwick and Billy Demong meet in the finish line as medalists. (Getty Images)
According to Lodwick, before the day's competition started, he had a feeling he would be back on the podium.
"I knew from the start, I didn't want to say it to myself, but I knew that I could get a medal.," Lodwick said. "It started with the jumping today. I've been jumping really well all week and had a good feeling coming from steamboat. The hill in Steamboat and the hill here in Liberec are similar and I knew if I was jumping well in Steamboat that I could come here and do well."
In the jumping round, Lodwick went 99.5. And while it wasn't the longest ride of the day, he nailed the form and carried a half point lead over Finland's Anssi Koivuranta and Schmid. That translated to a mere two seconds advantage in cross country. Demong, meanwhile, had a decent jump at 96.0 meters, but it was only good enough for 12th and a 36 second disadvantage in the cross country.
In the cross country race, Lodwick had to deal with a group of five through nearly the midpoint of the race, before Austria's Bernhard Gruber and Christoph Bieler dropped back first, then World Cup leader Koivuranta started to fade. Demong, meanwhile, was picking off the spots one by one and was up to fifth by the midway mark. At the 7.5K point, Lodwick was in bronze position and Koivuranta was dropping. Demong had no further challanges. Lodwick, meanwhile, stayed neck and neck with Schmid before blasting away with a kilometer to go at the same spot where, in 2002, Demong made a breakaway to win his first World Cup.
"Going in to the third lap we saw that Anssi [Koivuranta, Finland] was going away and that it was just Jan and I and then he pulled over and I led. I just went from there all the way to the finish line," Lodwick said. "[Nordic Combined Head Coach] Dave Jarret was on the last hill and he said, 'Go!' Jan was hurting a little bit and I had gapped him a little so I just buried myself to the top of the hill and looked back and Jan was gone."
"It feels really good. Having watched Todd the other day I was really motivated and it made me feel two ways. One, I'm happy for him, for the Team and I know we can carry this success, and the second thing is, I want to be up there, too," Demong added.
After years of yielding no medals at major competitions, Lodwick has now won two World Championship gold in a matter of days and calls his comeback t the sport nothing less than a fairytale.
"This is surreal. I knew that if I wanted to come back and ski it was going to be a long hard road. I've never trained so hard and had so much fun training," Lodwick said. "I knew in my heart that I wanted to come back and still compete, it's just a matter of a different mindset."
One athlete who couldn't be happier for Lodwick is fellow World Championship medalist Demong, who said Lodwick's first win motivated him to go all out.
"Today, I hoped after the jumping that I could maybe win, but Todd is really strong. Today was probably the best race I´ve had this season. I´ve been home for three weeks training and I knew I was going to have a fast race today. My tactic was just go hard from the start and try to take time from the leaders. Once I saw Todd was leading I was like 'OK, I will have to work really hard.' But luckily they dropped all the guys from their group."
For Demong, the success his Team has experienced throughout the season is a result of the program they have grown with.
"We knew going in to it that we had the potential to do this. It's about the program. We've really built up a lot of success over the years and I think we're relaxed and in shape and we're taking advantage of it," Demong said.
Now, with the medal count for the U.S. at Nordic World Championships at four, the men of the nordic combined Team hope to emerge from Thursday's team event with another to add to the mix.
"We have to take care of business. The team event is four guys jumping far and skiing fast. We'll take it step by step and compete well," Lodwick said.
Fans can relive the best moments of World Championships at UniversalSports.com presented by High Sierra.
2009 FIS NORDIC SKI WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Liberec, Czech Republic - Feb. 22, 2009
Nordic Combined Individual Gundersen (100 meter jump/10K ski)
(jump rank, cross country rank) time back
1. Todd Lodwick, Steamboat Springs, CO (1/3) 24:22.3
2. Jan Schmid, Norway (2/4) +13.0
3. Billy Demong, Vermontville, NY (12/2) +33.5
4. Anssi Koivuranta, Finland (2/17) +54.7
5. Norihito Kobayashi, Japan (14/8) +1:02.9
16. Johnny Spillane, Steamboat Springs, CO (26/11) +2:10.9
54. Brett Camerota, Park City, UT (50/52) +6:59.0
# # #
For complete results click here.