Lodwick reaches pinnacle | SteamboatToday.com

Lodwick reaches pinnacle

Successes, frustrations culminate in gold medals at 2009 World Championships

World Champions Bill Demong, left, and Todd Lodwick will be the center of attention at a 4 p.m. celebration today in Gondola Square. Here, the Nordic combined skiers show off the medals they won at the Nordic FIS World Championships in Liberec, Czech Republic. Demong garnered a bronze medal and a gold medal in the individual events. Lodwick won golds in the mass start and the individual events.
John F. Russell

Todd Lodwick's career

This timeline includes some of the highlights of Lodwick's career, including his first-place finishes in the World Cup and Olympic finishes.

- Nov. 21, 1976 - Lodwick is born.

- November 1992 - Lodwick is named to the U.S. Nordic Combined Team.

- February 1994 - Lodwick competes in his first Winter Olympics at age 18 in Lillehammer, Norway.

- Jan. 7, 1995 - In his first World Cup, Lodwick finishes eighth in Schonach, Germany.

- March 10, 1995 - Lodwick competes in his first World Ski Championships, in Thunder Bay, Canada.

- Dec. 6, 1995 - Lodwick wins his first World Cup in Steamboat Springs.

- Jan. 29, 1996 - Less than two months later, Lodwick wins the FIS Junior World Ski Championships in Asiago, Italy.

- Jan. 3, 1998 - Lodwick grabs a first-place finish in the World Cup in Schonach, Germany.

- February 1998 - Lodwick competes in the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

- March 13, 1998- Lodwick wins a World Cup sprint in Oslo, Norway.

- Jan. 25, 2001 - Lodwick claims first place in front of a bell-ringing hometown crowd in the World Cup in Steamboat Springs.

- Dec. 1, 2001 - Lodwick grabs a first-place finish in the World Cup in Lillehammer, Norway.

- February 2002 - Lodwick competes in the Winter Olympics in Utah, finishing fifth in sprint and seventh in traditional. The U.S. team narrowly misses the bronze medal - a disappointing setback.

- Jan. 4, 2004 - Lodwick takes another first-place finish in the World Cup in Schonach, Germany.

- Dec. 29, 2005 - Charley, Lodwick and wife Sunny's daughter, is born.

- February 2006 - A frustrated Lodwick misses out on a medal in the Olympic Winter Games in Italy, finishing ninth in the sprint and eighth in traditional.

- March 2006 - Lodwick retires from Nordic combined.

- Dec. 13, 2008 - Lodwick started his comeback with a win at the Continental Cup in Park City, Utah.

- Aug. 1, 2008 - Finn, Lodwick and Sunny's son, is born.

- Feb. 20. 2009 - Lodwick gets his first, first-place win in the Nordic combined mass start event in the World Ski Championships in Liberec, Czech Republic.

- Feb. 22, 2009 - Lodwick follows his win with another gold-medal performance two days later in the World Ski Championships in Liberec, Czech Republic.

If you go

What: Community celebration for Todd Lodwick and Bill Demong

When: 4 p.m. today

Where: Gondola Square at the Steamboat Ski Area

Details: Andy Wirth, Billy Kidd and U.S. ski team coaches and athletes will honor Lodwick and Demong for their recent World Championship medals. An autograph session will follow.

— Todd Lodwick has been called a lot of things since first joining the U.S. Nordic Combined team in 1992.

Talented. Promising. Driven. Outspoken. Controversial.

He’s been on the top stair of World Cup podiums six times, including wins in Schonach, Germany; and Oslo and Lillehammer, Norway. He’s a four-time Olympian who came within a heartbeat of a medal in 2002 when the U.S. finished fourth in the team event. Lodwick was fifth in the sprint and seventh in the two-jump, 15-kilometer event.

He also hoped for an Olympic medal in 2006, when he performed well in training but could not make the leap to the podium. He finished eighth in the two-jump, 15-kilometer individual event and ninth in the sprint.

“Even though I was in the top 10 twice, that was a huge disappointment,” Lodwick recalled this week. “I had one bad jump and started thinking. I tried to fix it on the next jump.”

His frustrations showed after the team event when Lodwick was critical of teammate Carl Van Loan.

But those days are behind the 32-year-old Steamboat Springs athlete. These days, most people refer to him simply as world champion.

Last month, Lodwick overcame years of ups, downs and elusive medals. He won gold in the mass start and individual events at the 2009 FIS Nordic World Championships in Liberec, Czech Republic. Finally, he was where he always wanted to be – at the pinnacle of his sport.

“He has a burning desire to fulfill his dreams,” longtime friend Grant Fenton said. “I’m so proud of him. He could have walked away, but he didn’t. He took it upon himself to make this happen.”

Lodwick retired after the 2006 Winter Olympics in Italy. But after a couple of years away from the sport, he chose to make a comeback, beginning his training in spring 2008.

“I really appreciated the time off,” Lodwick said. “I would have done it again. It was something that I needed to get away from. It made me respect what I had done as an athlete more, and it gave me time to reflect on the things that I did well and the things I didn’t do well. The wanting to get back into the sport grew and grew and grew as time went on.”

So Lodwick tested the idea of coming back with friends, family and his wife, Sunny.

“She said, ‘If this is what you really want to do and you feel like you can still do it, then get out and do it,'” Lodwick said. “She didn’t want to hear me complain about it for the rest of my life.”

He trained through the summer and fall, and with the help of U.S. Nordic combined team coaches, he began working with the same fitness program as his former teammates.

“I still remember him telling me last fall that he was in the best shape of his life,” Fenton said.

Lodwick said his comeback was aided tremendously by the support of his coaches and former teammates, including World Champions Bill Demong and Johnny Spillane.

“I wasn’t looking for a handout,” Lodwick said. “I wanted to prove that I belonged.”

It didn’t take Lodwick long to regain the respect of the world and his World Cup spot. He won two Continental Cup meets in Park City, Utah, and another at the Olympic venue at Whistler Olympic Park in Canada.

Lodwick’s return to the top was quick, but not surprising.

Nordic combined coach and longtime supporter Todd Wilson still recalls the conversation he had with Lodwick after his brief retirement.

“He called me after his first jumps,” Wilson said. “He was so excited, and he kept asking me if I remembered how much fun this sport is.”

“I saw it coming,” Wilson continued. “I predicted from the start that he would be coming back. I knew that he still had too much on the table.”

Lodwick says his main reason for coming back was a shot at a World Championship or Olympic medal.

He says winning always has been the driving force behind his success on the World Cup, and when he finally won, he thanked the people who have supported him.

“It was my medal, but it’s shared by a lot of people here in Steamboat,” Lodwick said. “There is a long list of people who have felt a part of this medal. That was probably one of the cool things about it. I grew up in this town, had a lot of success on the World Cup circuit, was a World Junior Champion in 1996, won a bunch of national titles and was just missing that element – that piece of the pie. To finally put it in place was absolutely beyond words.”

Lodwick becomes the third skier with ties to Steamboat Springs to be crowned a World Champion. Johnny Spillane (2003) and Bill Demong (2009) also have earned titles. Demong added to his haul a silver in Sapporo, Japan, in 2007 and a bronze medal in Liberec this year.

But with the 2010 Winter Olympics less than 11 months away, Lodwick already is considering a bigger piece of pie. He plans to continue training with the team this summer, compete on the World Cup tour in 2010 and take a fifth shot at Olympic glory next February.

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