LIBEREC, Czech Republic – American Todd Lodwick (Steamboat Springs, CO) laid down two lengthy jumps and led the cross country to win the gold during a mass start at the FIS Nordic Ski World Championships in Liberec Friday. Lodwick’s first career major event medal comes on the heels of teammate Johnny Spillane’s (Steamboat Springs, CO) gold in 2003 and Billy Demong’s (Vermontville, NY) silver in 2007.
“Words cannot describe it. The biggest thing about my comeback was World Championships. It still hasn’t set in, but today I am the best in the world,” Lodwick said.
Following Lodwick, Teammate Billy Demong (Vermontville, NY) who was third in the cross country portion of the event, finished fifth overall.
Lodwick made the decision to come out of retirement at 32to pursue his dream of being a World Champion. After four Olympics and seven World Championships, Friday marked Lodwick’s first medal in either competitive arena.
“This is a dream come true and a crazy fairytale that someone dreamt up for me to come out of retirement to ski at World Championships and win a medal,” Lodwick said. “That was my book, the book that I wrote. If you believe it’s possible, then anything is possible.”
Lodwick and Demong set a torrid pace in the cross country event Thursday. Demong set the pace most of the way before Lodwick poured it on at the end to win by nearly five seconds over German Tino Edelmann, with Demong less than a second further back in third.
Unlike the now standard World Cup format for nordic combined, the mass start features cross country first, followed by two jumps instead of one. The format puts an emphasis on jumping. It’s the first time it has been in the World Championships and will not be run at the Olympics.
Snow was falling in Liberec for the late afternoon jumps. In the first of two rounds, Edelman put down the gauntlet with a massive 100.5 meter jump. Lodwick, jumping last, was up to the challenge and matched the distance to maintain his lead, while Demong dropped into fourth.
Before Lodwick’s first jump, officials pulled him off the starting bar several times due to wind. And they also chose to send a forejumper before he was allowed to start.
In the second round, French skier Jason Lamy Chappuis flew to 99.5 meters to move into the top spot. Edelman countered at only 97.0, but it was enough to move ahead. Lodwick needed a strong jump to win, and he got it, hitting 97.5 meters to become the World Champion.
The mass start event hit a snag on Thursday when strong winds forced organizers to postpone the jumping portion of the event to Friday. But, according to Lodwick, the extra time made no difference in the outcome.
“The best person was going to win today. It’s still a cross country race and a jumping competition,” Lodwick said. “When you look at the result list, it was the people who have been up there all year who are still up there today.”
According to Lodwick, none of his success would have been possible at World Championships without having the people around him supporting him every step of the way.
“I give most of the credit to my wife and family. They are the ones who really supported me 100 percent from the get go. There’s a long list of people that I have to thank for this,” Lodwick said. “I just have to thank all my supporters and people who believed in me. Never say die.”
Demong, a stronger cross country skier than jumper, had a good finish in fifth but will be looking for more in the upcoming events. The 2003 World Champion Spillane was 20th with Eric Camerota (Park City, UT) 25th.
The nordic combined Team competes again Sunday and, as far as the new champ is concerned, his win is just a prelude.
“This is the start of the week and we still have three competitions. It’s an awesome day for team USA, but there’s still more to come,” Lodwick said.
Sunday will be the normal hill event with a 10K cross country. The four-man team event is set for Thursday (Feb. 26) and closing with the large hill with 10K on Saturday, Feb. 28.