Nordic Roundup: Big Brother monitors combiners; Alsgaard returns; Pedersen delays g'bye

Nordic Roundup: Big Brother monitors combiners; Alsgaard returns (briefly); Pedersen delays g'bye{mosimage}FIS experimented with a heart monitor for select athletes in three nordic combined World Cup events this season. After seven athletes wore the monitors in Oberhof, Germany, Todd Lodwick and Bill Demong wore them in Lahti, Finland, immediately after the world championships and at Oslo's Holmenkollen on the last weekend of the season in March.

FIS said 33 athletes participated in the experiment in Lahti and 29 in Oslo. The monitors were used by television during the cross-country races to show athletes' heartbeats and to draw comparisons between leading skiers and others.

"I think FIS was looking at it as a marketing opportunity," U.S. combined Coach Bard Elden told Ski Racing. "I'm not sold on it but it could be interesting. Todd and Billy participated because they told us we could get 10 heart-rate monitors." Several weeks later, Elden said, he's still waiting to get the free monitors.

Alsgaard takes silver at nationals
When last seen in these environs, Norwegian mega-champion Thomas Alsgaard was saying he really was done with racing…except…well, except when he wasn't done. In a visit last November, Alsgaard – who retired after the 2003 season – said he had no second thoughts about returning to the international stage.

Ah, but that still left the Norwegian stage. And Alsgaard – a little like a Viking Sarah Bernhardt, who made almost annual retirement tours – came back for the Norwegian cross-country championships…and was one-half of the silver-medal sprint relay duo April 1 in Lillehammer. Espen Harald Bjerke and Tore Ruud Hofstad were the champions while Aslgaard teamed with nordic combined skier Kristian Hammer – silver medalist in the sprint at Worlds.

Alsgaard explained, though, that he wasn't planning on any bigtime return. He had trained hard for two weeks, but to get serious – with the Olympics next February in Torino, Italy – about returning would mean too much time, pain and effort. Asked if he'd return for the 2006 Norwegian nationals, he replied with a good-natured chuckle, "Sure I'll race, but it has to be on a snowmobile."

No joke – Pedersen's back
At age 40 and the mother of twin teenage daughters, the word at nordic worlds in Germany was that Norwegian star Hilde G. Pedersen was going to pull it over after the season. Apparently Pedersen didn't get the memo because as April Fool's Day neared, she announced she'd be back for the 2006 Olympic season. One half (with Marit Bjoergen) of the gold-medal sprint relay team in Oberstdorf, Pedersen has decided she's still competitive…and she's certainly still having fun.

As an exclamation point to her season, Pedersen and daughter Ida were the bronze-medal team Friday in the sprint relay at the Norwegian Championships in Lillehammer. Said the proud momma, "My daughters are one of the reasons I have decided to continue at elite level. It's very exciting to race with your own daughters."

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