FILE UNDER -- Nordic

TORINO: NC: Well-rested dad Lodwick aims to improve on Salt Lake top 10s

TORINO: NC: Well-rested dad Lodwick aims to improve on Salt Lake top 10s{mosimage}SESTRIERE, Italy – From the moment Todd Lodwick found out his wife was pregnant with their first child, he started planning a year that would allow him to peak for the Olympic nordic combined competition and also spend significant time at home.

Even as he learned to change diapers for daughter Charley, born Dec. 29, and trained on his own at home in Colorado, the 13-year U.S. team member had his mind on his final Olympics.

”This whole year has been planned from early summer,” Lodwick said. ”I had a child and we had to plan around it and look at it as a time to find out what’s really important. Through the whole season we came up with a plan to peak this weekend.”

The 29-year-old Lodwick, the most decorated American in nordic combined with six World Cup victories, spent two months away from the rest of his U.S. teammates.

Lodwick and his longtime personal coach, Tom Steitz, are committed to enjoying Lodwick’s fourth and final shot at the podium on the world’s largest stage – and Lodwick is determined to help the Americans bring home a medal in the nordic combined team event after several heartbreaking misses in recent years. Lodwick’s first event is Saturday in Pragelato.

This next couple weeks will mark the end of a long and emotional ride for Lodwick and Steitz. The coach took a chance on Lodwick when he was a teenager and a ”bit of a rebel,” despite warnings from other coaches that Lodwick lacked the necessary work ethic and desire. Steitz, a former U.S. nordic combined coach, didn’t buy it.

”I said, ‘Hey kid, I’ll make you a deal: I’ll hand you this U.S. Ski Team jacket and take you to Europe in two weeks, and it’ll only last until you and I cross swords.’ And he wasn’t a cross-country skier. He’d never done a local high school ski race,” Steitz recalled. ”Everybody in the organization said, ‘You can’t do things like this, Tom.’ Now when I tell that story I look like I knew what I was doing.”

Lodwick competed in the first four World Cups of the season before returning home to be with his wife, Sunny. She and the baby made the long trip from Colorado to Italy for Lodwick’s last go-round – with an unexpected bonus from Charley.

”She didn’t cry the entire way,” Sunny said upon arriving at the Torino airport Wednesday.

Lodwick is happy he spent the time at home this winter with his family. And, conveniently, he lives just down the street from Steitz in Steamboat Springs, Colo.

”It’s been 12 seasons on the World Cup tour and I needed a break from it all and still be able to perform at my highest level,” Lodwick said. ”It was the perfect plan from the start.”

Lodwick said he feels ”really, really, really rested” and in the best shape he’s been in since the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, where he recorded all-time U.S. best finishes in his sport – fifth in the sprint and seventh in the individual event.

The Americans are tired of coming up just short of a medal. They placed fourth in the team event in the 2002 Games.

”I think it’s important for the U.S. team to break through and achieve an Olympic medal,” said Lodwick, who began trailing his older brother, Kris, to the jump as a young boy. ”I feel that in the team event we’ve had a medal ripped away from us.”

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