USA comes in 6th at final Combined Team Event

Posted By: The Ski Channel on March 4, 2011 11:41 am

Author of Story: Tom Kelly

OSLO, Norway – Austria and Germany battled right down to a photo finish, before Austria emerged victorious in the large hill nordic combined team event at the 2011 Nordic World Ski Championships at Holmenkollen in Oslo Friday. Team USA, which had set itself up for a medals battle after the jump, dropped to sixth. Norway took bronze.

The USA setup reasonably well in the jump, landing in fifth one minute, four seconds behind France. Bryan Fletcher (Steamboat Springs, CO) led off in sixth behind France in the first group, going 125.0 meters. In the second round, 2003 World Champion Johnny Spillane (Steamboat Springs, CO) soared 124.0 meters for third. Billy Demong (Vermontville, NY) went 124.0 meters in the third round, with Todd Lodwick (Steamboat Springs, CO) 122.5 meters to wrap up the day.

“We were pretty happy with the way we jumped however we weren’t as close as I thought we were going to be after the jumping,” Said Head Coach Dave Jarrett. “We were a little too far out. The margin between getting a medal and not getting a medal is not very much and we got shut out this time.”

“I think we jumped better today than we did the whole Championships as a team,” said Demong. “Unfortunately it put us at just about the same as it did in the first team event. We had to definitely have a great race but also make up some time in the beginning to have a shot. I went out there and felt really good again.”

In the opening relay leg, France’s Sebastien Lacroix went out hard and actually lengthened the lead before Norway’s Mikko Kokslien gave a strong push to cut the margin to 18 seconds at the tag. Demong trimmed over 20 seconds off the margin, but could not quite bridge up to Austria or Germany.

“I think I’ve been in good shape these Championships. But it wasn’t enough today,” added Demong. “Mikko [Kokslien] had a really strong first leg and kind of just opened the gap up at the end and took some of the other teams we were chasing with him. We were just behind the medals again, but a solid day. In the future it’s going to be about being in a little bit better jumping shape coming in and giving ourselves a little bit better starting position to fight.”

While France faded on the second leg, Austria made its move handing off to its superstar Felix Gottwald with a narrow lead over Germany and Norway dropping back seven seconds in third. Fletcher had cut as much as 10 seconds off before making the handoff to Johnny Spillane 41 seconds behind Austria and 34 seconds from the medals.

Gottwald kept the lead against Germany’s Eric Frenzel on the third leg, but somewhat surprisingly was not able to build a margin. While Austria and Germany battled for the lead, Norway and France juggled positions nearly 20 seconds back. Spillane, meanwhile, was unable to gain ground and handed off to Lodwick with a deficit of over a minute.

Over the final five kilometers, Austria’s Mario Stecher and Germany’s Tino Edelmann played a cat and mouse game swapping the lead back and forth, setting the stage for a sprint to the finish. Edelmann led Stecher into the final short stadium hill, stalling the pace before bursting ahead.

Stecher, who initially struggled to maintain contact, picked up a few seconds of rest tucking in behind Edelmann coming over the short drop from a bridge into the final hundred meters. With a massive burst of energy, Stecher attached onto Edelmann’s left. The two sprint to the line, shoving boots across the beam, with Austria getting the nod after a two minute review of the photo finish.

There was little chance for Lodwick on the anchor leg, with the leaders well in command and too much time to make up.

The team event wrapped up the Championships for the combined squad which now heads to Lahti, Finland for the final event of the World Cup tour.

FIS Nordic World Ski Championships
Oslo, Norway – Mar. 4, 2011
Large Hill Team Event

Gold: Austria, (Bernhard Gruber, David Kreiner, Felix Gottwald, Mario Stetcher), 47:12.3
Silver: Germany, (Johannes Rydzek, Bjoern Kircheisen, Eric Frenzel, Tino Edelmann), +0.1
Bronze: Norway, (Mikko Korslien, Haavard Klemetsen, Jan Schmid, Magnus Moan), +40.6
6. USA (Bryan Fletcher, Billy Demong, Johnny Spillane, Todd Lodwick), +1:44.0