Former sprint world champion Johnny Spillane and Bill Demong will provide leadership for an otherwise young U.S. nordic combined team that saw the retirement of longtime standout and four-time Olympian Todd Lodwick during the off-season.
A HEALTHY JOHNNY SPILLANE — the former sprint world champion who's endured three years of frustrating sickness and injuries — coupled with the return of three-time Olympian Bill Demong helps give the U.S. nordic combined team two cornerstones for a successful season.
New head coach Lasse Ottesen, the team's jumping coach for the past two seasons, also is optimistic about the prospects for the young B team athletes. With four-time Olympian Todd Lodwick retiring, Spillane and Demong are joined on the A team by the Camerota twins — Eric and Brett — and there is a six-member B Team.
"We've got the good leadership from Johnny and Billy, and then we can't get ahead of ourselves with the other young guys. We must be patient. They need international experience and they'll get it, but we have to be patient," Ottesen said.
Spillane, who has battled several injuries since winning the sprint gold medal at the 2003 Nordic World Ski Championships, had surgery in the spring to reconstruct his right shoulder. He returned to jumping during the summer and said he was quietly anxious to reclaim his place with the world's best combined skiers.
After preseason training in Park City and Norway, the combiners — who normally have a World Cup stop each winter in Sapporo, Japan — staged a rare training camp in Sapporo this month to further familiarize themselves with the site for the 2007 World Championships in February.
Ottesen and Dave Jarrett are working with the World Cup group while Chris Gilbertson is the World Cup B coach. Gilbertson worked with several of the younger athletes at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, "so they're up to speed right away. It's been a good transition to the national team," Ottesen said.
The nordic combined World Cup season begins Nov. 25-26 in Kuusamo, Finland, while the World Cup B schedule opens with three stops in the United States — Dec. 9-10 in Steamboat Springs, Dec. 16-17 in Park City, Utah, and Dec. 21-22 in Lake Placid, New York . The World Championships are set for Feb. 22-March 4 in Sapporo, Japan.