When the Turin Olympics get under way in February, Todd Lodwick hopes to do something no American man has ever done - capture an Olympic medal in Nordic combined, which features both ski jumping and cross country skiing. VOA's David Byrd has a look at the Colorado native, who will likely be making his last attempt to win Olympic gold.
Todd Lodwick has been described as a lone wolf - while the rest of the U.S. Nordic Combined team trains in Park City, Utah, Lodwick spends most of his time near his home in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
But Lodwick's isolation is part personal preference and part family preparation. Lodwick and his wife are soon expecting their first child, and the skier is splitting his time between competing and completing the renovation of his home.
It is as if Lodwick's life has come full circle - his first trips down ski slopes were in his mother's backpack when she skied. By age 11, Todd Lodwick was skiing competitively. He started hanging out with his older brother Kris who competed in Nordic combined. Todd was also an avid soccer player, which helped build the endurance he would need in Nordic combined.
Though he started competing only in ski jumping, Todd says combined's mixture of ski jumping and cross country skiing was a better fit for him.
"I got along with those guys a lot better than I did with the jumpers at the time, so it was a natural fit to hang out with the Nordic combined skiers," he said. "So Tom Steitz, longtime coach and former coach of the U.S. Ski Team, handed me some skinny skis instead of some fat skis, and I guess I did not know any better at the time what I was doing, so I decided to make a career out of it."
Todd Lodwick's decision to change sports has proven to be the right one. In his first international competition, he won an Intercontinental Cup - now called a World Cup-B event.
Lodwick has since become the most successful combined skier in U.S. history, with eight U.S. Nordic combined titles. He has won six World Cup events and this season won twice at a World Cup-B competition in his hometown of Steamboat Springs. He has competed in three previous Olympics, with a fifth place in 2002, the best ever for an American.
In World Cup events this season, Lodwick's best performance was second in a sprint event in Lillehammer, Norway. He says that he would like to improve on his performance from Salt Lake City, but he has to stay focused for the rest of the World Cup circuit as well.
"You know there is always going to be the wave of what is good and what is not as good the next year," he said. "So it is trying to balance - trying to learn from the previous year and try and go into the next year and balance your weaknesses from the previous years so that you are a Nordic combined athlete."
Nordic combined demands precise balance, brute strength, and finesse for the jumping, and endurance for the cross country skiing part. But Todd Lodwick says that he has learned to listen to his body when he trains and he should be prepared for Turin.
"I have been pretty good about balancing what I need and listening to my body and what it is telling me to do," he said. "So, you know if I feel like I am in great cross-country shape one week, I feel like I can concentrate more on the jumping side. And vice versa. If it feels like my jumping is there, I can put more time into the cross country side."
This past season, Lodwick's training included swinging a hammer and tearing out sheet rock as he restored his home. Todd and his wife Sunny are expecting their first child before the Olympics. Lodwick says that this might not be the best time to start a family, but he is excited about the new phase of his life.
"It was not the perfect timing to have a child, but of course good things come out of it," he said. "But it has been quite a roller coaster trying to prepare for being parents and a new chapter in life, I guess."
Todd Lodwick has said this will be his last season on the World Cup circuit and his last Olympics. The 13-year veteran plans to focus his attention on fatherhood but says he wants to leave the sport with a good feeling. Winning an Olympic medal in Nordic combined - something no American has ever done - would likely be just what Lodwick needs to get that feeling.