PARK CITY, UT (Jan. 21) – Three World Champions were among five athletes announced Thursday by the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) to compete on the 2010 Olympic Nordic Combined Ski Team. Billy Demong (Vermontville, NY), Todd Lodwick and Johnny Spillane (both Steamboat Springs, CO) will headline the strongest U.S. team ever in the sport.
USSA President and CEO Bill Marolt, together with the U.S. Olympic Committee and Team partner Visa, announced the roster of athletes to compete in the nordic combined events at the Whistler Olympic Park north of Vancouver.
With the announcement, Lodwick, who came out of retirement to compete in the 2008-09 season, became only the second American to be named to five Winter Olympic Teams (matching bobsledder Brian Shimer). The 33-year old was on the 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006 and now 2010 Olympic Teams.
World Champions Todd Lodwick, Johnny Spillane and Billy Demong headline the Olympic Nordic Combined Team. (Getty Images-Doug Pensinger)
"This is a group of proven champions that has come together after many years of working together as a Team," U.S. Nordic Director John Farra.
Spillane, the 2003 World Champion, is enjoying his strongest season ever. In December, he beat his World Champion teammates on their home Steamboat Springs course to win the Olympic Trials. He came back in January to take a career first World Cup win.
Lodwick skied an abbreviated schedule but still managed podium finishes in Val di Fiemme, Italy and Chaux-Neuve, France, and was in the top six in all but one of his seven World Cups.
Demong was skiing his best all season in mid-January, including a win on a terrifyingly hilly course in Val di Fiemme where he won, nearly leading a 1-2-3 sweep with Lodwick second.
Brett Camerota (Park City, UT) and Taylor Fletcher (Steamboat Springs, CO) each cracked into World Cup points. Camerota was 18th in Ramsau, Austria in mid-December while Fletcher scored his first career points earlier in January to clinch a fifth quota spot for the USA. Fletcher is the lone skier on the Team making his Olympic debut.
The best USA Olympic performance in nordic combined came in 2002 when the four-man team narrowly missed a medal, finishing fourth. Lodwick, Spillane and Demong were all on that squad. In that same Games, Lodwick was fifth. Demong was seventh and Spillane tenth for their best finishes in Torino four years ago.
The Olympic Team coaching staff will be headed by former U.S. Ski Team athlete Dave Jarrett, who began coaching at the U.S. Ski Team in 2002, moving up to head coach in 2008.
"This is the most prepared group of athletes I have seen," said Dave Jarrett, a former Nordic combined athlete who has been involved with the sport at the Olympic level since 1988. "The Big Three have been working hard and positioning themselves to be medal threats their entire careers. They have World Cup and World Championship pedigrees that reflect it, too."
According to Jarrett, Camerota will be fighting with Taylor Fletcher for the right to compete as the fourth athlete in the individual competitions as well as the team event.
Athletes are presently training around at their homes in Steamboat Springs and Park City, preparing for a pre-Olympic camp in Park City Feb. 1-8. During the camp the Team will jump at the Utah Olympic Park and train cross country on the Olympic trails at Soldier Hollow near Midway. The Team will arrive in Vancouver on Feb. 9 to prepare for a schedule that includes two individual and one four-man team medal events with the first competition on Sunday, Feb. 14.
The Team is subject to final review by the U.S. Olympic Committee.
2010 U.S. OLYMPIC NORDIC COMBINED SKI TEAM
(name, hometown, age as of opening ceremonies, birthdate, (past Olympics))
Brett Camerota, Park City, UT, 25, 1/9/85 (2006)
Billy Demong, Vermontville, NY, 29, 3/29/80, (1998, 2002, 2006)
Taylor Fletcher, Steamboat Springs, 19, 5/11/90
Todd Lodwick, Steamboat Springs, CO, 33, 10/21/76 (1994, 1998, 2002, 2006)
Johnny Spillane, Steamboat Springs, CO, 29, 11/24/80 (1998, 2002, 2006)