U.S. Nordic Combined team off to Finland
Steamboat Springs — U.S. Nordic Combined coach Tom Steitz glanced out his car window Wednesday as he cruised down the highway.
“We were not planning on leaving this early, but I’m not seeing anything out my window that will change my mind,” Steitz said.
The unseasonably warm weather, and a lack of snow at the higher elevations, will send the American team packing today. The squad will head to Rovaniemi, Finland for training before the official start of the World Cup season on Nov. 23 in Kuopio, Finland.
“They are actually jumping in Finland today,” Steitz said as rain splattered the windshield of his car. “We were hoping to hang around here, but that just isn’t going to happen and we can’t afford to wait and see especially this year.”
Steitz said he is hoping that the American team will be able to get a few good days of jumping and some cross county skiing in before the season opens. Steitz said in this important Olympic year he couldn’t afford to have his skiers take a two- or three-week break this close to the start of the World Cup.
The team has already been off more than two weeks after coming off a great fall training camp in Hinterzarten, Germany, and in Stams, which is close to Innsbruck.
Bill Demong, Johnny Spillane, Matt Dayton and Jed Hinkly joined Steitz and Jan-Erik Aalbu for the camp.
On Friday, the team will pack nearly 200 skis, 25 pairs of boots, video equipment, and waxing equipment into vans and make the three-hour drive to Denver International Airport.
The team will then board a plane for the long trip to Europe.
“We have six events before Steamboat this year,” Steitz said. “It’s an Olympic year and every town wants to host a World Cup.”
Steitz said the idea of heading to Finland this time of year is less than appealing. It’s dark 18 to 20 hours a day and the team can look forward to jumping and skiing under the lights most of the time.
Todd Lodwick and Nathan Gerhart are expected to join the four skiers that traveled to Europe early this fall. Steitz, however, hasn’t decided which skiers will start out on the main World Cup and which will be competing in the World Cup B circuit, which also opens in Europe in November as well.
“It will be an important trip for us,” Steitz said. “We have eight World Cups before Christmas and things will be tight they always are before the Olympics.”
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