FILE UNDER -- Nordic

Lillehammer: Manninen edges American Todd Lodwick in nordic combined sprint

Lillehammer: Manninen edges American Todd Lodwick in nordic combined sprint{mosimage}LILLEHAMMER, Norway – Hannu Manninen of Finland edged Todd Lodwick of the United States by four-tenths of a second to win a World Cup nordic combined sprint event Sunday.

Manninen covered the 7.5 kilometers on Lillehammer’s Olympic trails in 19 minutes, 47.5 seconds. In a crowded sprint, Ronny Ackermann of Germany was third, 0.8 behind.

Ackermann said he was blocked on purpose by Manninen when he tried to pass the Finn on an uphill stretch just before the final straightaway.

The German was upset and tried to hit Manninen with his ski pole after crossing the finish line. He later refused to shake hand with the Finn at the prize awarding ceremony.

The win – his 34th career on the World Cup circuit – capped a perfect weekend for Manninen at Lillehammer. He won another event Saturday.

The Finn has won three of the four events so far this season.

Manninen, the defending overall champion, extended his lead in the standings to 350 points. Austria’s Felix Gottwald, who finished eighth, is second with 192 points, followed by Anssi Koivuranta of Finland (188) and Lodwick (183).

American Bill Demong had a poor jump but moved up seven places in the 7.5km race to 28th.

It was Lodwick’s best finish of the season. Lodwick, who was 13th in the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer and says this is his final season before retirement, was fourth Saturday in the individual event. He said the comfort factor he feels in Lillehammer helps give him a boost.

“It was a good weekend. We were at ‘Go!’ speed all the way but Hannu’s so tough at that point … but I’ll take second. It was a good one. This one’s special; I won’t have any problem remembering my last comp in Lillehammer,” Lodwick said.

U.S. coach Lasse Ottesen added, ‘It was obviously a good day for Todd and a drawback for Billy because he had that bad jump [and was 35th to start the 7.5km]. I told Todd this was the first race since I began coaching [last season] where I thought he could win the race.’ Manninen was 32 seconds back of Lodwick to start the race but, the fastest skier in the sport, he made it close at the end before earning his third win in four meets this season.

“Our plan was to start slowly and keep getting better every competition, and that’s what Todd and Billy have been doing. We want them at their peak at the Olympics, not skiing so well in the first month of the season and then slowing,” Ottesen said.

“I’ve really got one goal this winter – a medal at the Olympics,” Lodwick said, “and this was a good step forward. I struggled with my jumping when we got here a few weeks ago but it’s coming back. I’ve got some of that feel again and that’s giving me more confidence.”

Lillehammer stepped in on short notice when unseasonal weather and no snow forced organizers in Trondheim to let go of the event.

Lodwick and Demong return to the United States this week and will compete in World Cup-B action next weekend in Steamboat Springs; Demong also will be in World Cup-B events in Lake Placid Dec. 20-21. The World Cup season resumes Dec. 17-18 in Ramsau, Austria, but the U.S. skiers will be back for the German Grand Prix after Christmas.

– The Associated Press/USSA

World Cup nordic combined results
7.5 kilometers cross-country ski
Ski jumping and cross-country results in parenthesis

1. Hannu Manninen, Finland, 19 minutes, 47.5 seconds (11-4).
2. Todd Lodwick, United States, 0.4 behind (2-9).
3. Ronny Ackermann, Germany, 0.8 (12-2).
4. Anssi Koivuranta, Finland, 3.3 (1-19).
5. Georg Hettich, Germany, 28.7 (10-11).
6. Jens Gaiser, Germany, 33.9 (9-13).
7. Sebastian Haseney, Germany, 37.8 (26-1).
8. Felix Gottwald, Austria, 39.3 (25-6).
9. Michael Gruber, Austria, 45.9 (6-25).
10. Christoph Bieler, Austria, 49.8 (6-25).
11. Bjorn Kircheisen, Germany, 52.9 (29-7).
12. Jason Lamy Chapuis, France, 53.2 (7-24).
13. Sergei Maslennikov, Russia, 55.2 (5-33).
14. Kristian Hammer, Norway, 1:04.2 (35-5).
15. Magnus Moan, Norway, 1:04.4 (38-3).

Overall standings (After 4-of-21 events)
1. Hannu Manninen, Finland, 350 points.
2. Felix Gottwald, Austria, 192.
3. Anssi Koivuranta, Finland, 188.
4. Todd Lodwick, United States, 183.
5. Petter Tande, Norway, 169.
6. Mario Stecher, Austria, 166.
7. Ronny Ackermann, Germany, 155.
8. Georg Hettich, Germany, 152.
9. Magnus Moan, Norway, 130.
10. Jaakko Tallus, Finland, 114.

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