Joel Reichenberger: Finding an old face in a new place
Steamboat Springs — Todd Lodwick has done just about everything there is to be done in Nordic combined.
In a 22-year career, he racked up hundreds of World Cup starts and dozens of podium finishes. He competed in an American-record six Olympic Games, won an Olympic silver medal and three World Championship medals, two golds and a bronze.
Friday, like he’s done innumerable times in the past, he climbed up the ski jumps at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs.
That climb has been a Fourth of July-week staple for Lodwick since the holiday ski jumping event began shortly after the first all-season jump was constructed in 2006.
The Fourth of July event — both Friday and Saturday’s jumping and Saturday’s downtown roller ski race — has always been special for Lodwick, and through the years, it’s done a fair job of summing up the man.
It showcased his passion.
Where some saw a week of training capped by a public relations event (the race and ensuing jumping at Howelsen Hill), Lodwick always saw a competition, and if it was a competition, he was intent on winning.
There was never much of a prize, or any at all, but that never stopped him.
That’s the kind of drive that takes a man to six Olympics.
It put his sport on a pedestal.
Nordic combined is one of those Olympic events that usually comes with a Bob Costas explanation before NBC jumps in with coverage.
It’s not only not popular nationally, outside a few enclaves it’s nearly unknown.
Every Fourth of July, however, thousands of visitors get a taste of the sport.
Finally, it showcases his hometown, the place he grew up, and the place where now, after his retirement, he still works.
“It’s great to be in a town like Steamboat to showcase our sport on America’s greatest day of the year,” Lodwick said after winning the 2013 race. “We get to celebrate this sport in this type of setting and that’s really cool.”
Lodwick wrapped up his career at the 2014 Winter Olympics, and for now, he loves to both travel and to spend time with his children in Steamboat. He started a tile-laying business in town and is working on a spec home this summer.
That last Olympics was both the best and worst of times for him. He carried the United States flag in the opening ceremonies, a tribute to his sixth trip, but an injured shoulder limited his participation and performance.
It was the end of his career, and he said he’s comfortable with that.
He hasn’t trained a day since he returned from those Games. He hasn’t taken a run or lifted a weight, and he certainly hasn’t jumped off a hill on skis.
He’s learned to love hamburgers — too much, he said with a grin and pat on his stomach — and he’s learned to ski “leisurely” in the winter, even stopping mid-day for a drink.
He’s finally managed to slow his competitive motor — the engine that powered him to medals and glory and that allowed him to do nearly everything there is to be done in Nordic combined.
Friday he did find one new thing.
Jumper after jumper came and went on Howelsen Hill, flying over the town to kick off two days of summer ski jumping and racing, an event Todd Lodwick has long loved.
He climbed Howelsen Hill, he found a good vantage point and, for the first time, he simply watched.
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