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US Comes Up Short in Nordic Combined - 2002-02-18

The United States has had its hopes dashed for its first ever Olympic medal in a Nordic event.

After finishing third Saturday in the ski jumping portion of the Nordic Combined team event, the U-S men felt confident of their position going into the four-by-five kilometer cross country ski race.

With starting times determined by the ski jumping results, the Americans started one minute 40 seconds in back of first place Finland and 40 seconds behind second place Austria for the cross country relay.

The Americans relay time was faster than Finland's, but not enough to move up. Meanwhile, the Germans, who started the day in fifth position (1:51 off the pace), had the fastest relay time, passing fourth place Japan, the U.S., and finally Austria in the sprint to the finish line to grab the silver medal. Austria got the bronze and the U.S. finished fourth.

American team member Todd Lodwick struggled to hold back his tears at the post-race news conference. "I gave it all and it wasn't enough. It's the best result we've ever had, but we wanted to win more [place higher] today. The Americans finished about one minute out of the bronze medal position in the Nordic combined team event, but their coach said he was pleased that they are now among the best in the world.

They finished ahead of defending Olympic champion Norway, which placed fifth. Earlier in the day at Soldier Hollow, the men's 4x10 kilometer cross country relay came down to a thrilling finish, with Norway nipping Italy for the gold medal by a mere three-100ths of a second. It was the smallest margin of victory in Olympic relay history.

It was also a dramatic replay of the 1998 games in Nagano when Norway edged Italy by half a ski length to win gold..

The close finish here was possible when Italy erased a 23-second deficit in the third leg. Germany earned the bronze medal.