Steamboat-led U.S. Nordic combined team gears up for new season |

Steamboat-led U.S. Nordic combined team gears up for new season

Luke Graham

Steamboat Springs' Todd Lodwick skates away with his 20th National Championship earlier this summer. Lodwick and the rest of the Nordic combined team leaves Nov. 17 for the 2012-13 season.

— It's always easier to work hard when the end goal is big. As so it is that the U.S. Nordic combined team hasn't had to look far for reasons to get out of bed this past summer and train.

The 2013 season features the World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy. And 465 days from Wednesday marks the beginning of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

"I don't know if it's easier," Nordic combined coach Dave Jarrett said. "It should be easier for everyone to be motivated with February 2013 and February 2014 on their mind."

The 2013 World Championships run Feb. 20 through March 3. They also mark the 10-year anniversary of Johnny Spillane's breakthrough World Championship gold medal.

Spillane, who enters his 14th year on the World Cup circuit, helped spur the rise in the U.S. Nordic combined program.

Ten years, a wife and two children later, he's still going strong.

Recommended Stories For You

"It's been a long time," Spillane said. "I'm proud of what our team has accomplished. Over the course of those 10 years we've changed the way people view U.S. Nordic combined. We've changed the way the world views us."

And as the team enters the 2012-13 season, it might be the deepest and talented bunch the United States has ever fielded.

The top squad features Spillane, Todd Lodwick, Billy Demong, Taylor Fletcher and Bryan Fletcher. All but Demong are from Steamboat.

Spillane, Lodwick and Demong's merits speak for themselves. Bryan Fletcher had his breakout last year, winning the season-ending World Cup.

Lodwick, who turns 36 this month, looks to be in the best shape of his life. After a win over the summer in Sochi at a Grand Prix event, Lodwick won his 20th National Championship earlier this summer, beating competitors 10 years younger than him.

Lodwick said he struggled mightily with his breathing the past two seasons and couldn't figure out why. He then learned he was gluten intolerant, and with the right mix of medications he said he was finally able to train at 100 percent.

"The situation was mentally more tough than physical," he said. "I know what my body feels like. It was frustrating and depressing to train and not get the results. I contemplated giving it up. But with the support of teammates and coaches, we conquered this thing. Really started to feel better than I ever have this summer."

It sets up well for a team that will battle Nordic combined heavyweights Norway, Germany, Austria and France. The first World Cup of the season in Nov. 24 and 25 in Lillehammer, Norway. Jarrett said the ultimate goal is to win medals at the World Championships.

Other key dates include a World Cup in Sochi on Feb. 2 and 3 as well as the season-ending World Cup on March 15 and 16 in Oslo, Norway.

"We consider ourselves the best team in the world," Lodwick said. "All that counts is we believe in ourselves and being successful at the World Championships."

Donate to help next wave of Nordic combined stars

The National Nordic Foundation is currently is raising money for the developmental U.S. Nordic combined team. Now through Nov. 15, the NNF is asking people to donate directly or to start a donation team of their own. The NNF has raised more than $36,000 with a goal of raising $125,000. To donate or to start a donation team, click here.

2012-13 World Cup schedule

Nov. 24 and 25, Lillehammer, Norway

  • Dec. 1 and 2, Kuusamo, Finland
  • Dec. 8 and 9, Erzurum, Turkey
  • Dec. 15 and 16, Ramsau, Austria
  • Jan. 5 and 6, Schonach, Germany
  • Jan. 12 and 13, Chaux-Neuve, France
  • Jan. 19 and 20, Seefeld, Austria
  • Jan. 26 and 27, Klingenthal, Germany
  • Feb. 2 and 3, Sochi, Russia
  • Feb. 9 and 10, Almaty, Kazakhstan
  • Feb. 20-March 3, World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy
  • March 8 and 9, Lahti, Finland
  • March 15 and 16, Oslo, Norway