LAKE PLACID, NY (Oct. 9) - Athletes went through final training Friday in advance of today's U.S. Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined Championships as a part of Lake Placid's Flaming Leaves Festival. World Champions Todd Lodwick (Steamboat Springs, CO) and Lindsey Van (Park City, UT) will be among the favorites. Nordic combined star Lodwick is after his 20th U.S. title, while ski jumper Van is shooting for 14.
Weather has been cool in Lake Placid with colorful fall foliage. Athletes took final training jumps at the Olympic Jumping Complex Friday, the same site used for Lake Placid's 1980 Olympic Winter Games. The nordic combined skiers hopped on roller skis for a final training workout Friday afternoon.
Van scored a comeback win a year ago in Lake Placid, kicking off what would be a World Championship title year for the Utah native. Lodwick, meanwhile, is shooting for his 20th title a year after staging a sensational comeback. The Steamboat Springs native came back after two years in retirement to take bronze at the U.S. Championships in 2009. He went on to win back-to-back World Championship titles in February.
Injuries will keep a number of top contenders out of Saturday's championships. Defending jumping champion, Olympian Anders Johnson (Park City, UT) is coming back from a knee injury and hoping to be competing this season. Defending nordic combined champ Johnny Spillane (Steamboat Springs, CO), is expected back in a few weeks after a knee injury. And World Champion and hometown hero Billy Demong (Vermontville, NY), is planning to sit out Saturday's competition nursing a sore shoulder from a roller skiing accident last week.
"I crashed last week. I know it's not a severe injury. I was hoping I'd be better by this weekend, but I made the call this morning to sit out this weekend so that in a week to 10 days I'll be able to get back to normal training."
Demong made the decision to take the weekend off to help him get back to training sooner. "I feel bad that I'm not able to compete at home," he said. "This is one of the few chances I have to compete on home hills in front of friends and family.
"I always really look forward to coming home in the fall for the Flaming Leaves Festival. Lake Placid built up a big tradition in this competition and did a really good job of attracting spectators. Pairing the competition up with U.S. Championships has made it a bigger festival. I'm disappointed to miss out on it."
"It's unfortunate that the top guns are absent from this competition," said Lodwick. "I feel for Billy knowing that this is his home town and that he would like to compete."
"This opens the door for some younger guys who maybe wouldn't have had the chance to get on the podium to now have a shot," said Nordic Combined Coach Chris Gilbertson. "Billy always wants to compete - all the time - even when he's sick. But the bigger picture came out today of what's to come in February. It didn't make sense to jeopardize his recovery when the main goal is four months away."
With Johnson out of the ski jumping competition, eyes are on Nick Fairall (Andover, NH) and Nick Alexander (Lebanon, NH). Van, meanwhile, will face tough competition from teammates Sarah Hendrickson and Jessica Jerome (both Park City), among others.
Action gets underway at the U.S. Nordic Combined and Ski Jumping Championships with first round jumping at 11:00 a.m. ET and second round at noon. The 10K nordic combined roller ski starts at 2:15 p.m.
Saturday evening beginning at 6:00 p.m., top Olympic contenders from nordic combined, ski jumping, cross country plus biathlon and the slidingn sports of bobsled, luge and skeleton will gather for a community sendoff. The athletes are all training in Lake Placid in final preparation for the 2010 Olympic season.
A SuperTour jumping competition is also scheduled Sunday, beginning at 11:00 a.m.