Flying unaided by machines or makeshift wings in one of the most magical Olympics sports, Nordic combined skier Felix Gottwald and a trio of US athletes could make history at the 2010 Games.
Flying unaided by machine or makeshift wings, Nordic combined skier Felix Gottwald and a trio of US athletes could make history at the 2010 Olympics. Gottwald, an Austrian, is well placed to set the all-time record for medals won in consecutive Olympic events, while the American men could win the country's first-ever medal in a sport once dominated by Norwegians.
Felix Gottwald, AUT (see video)
A year before the Olympics, Felix Gottwald was at World Championships – wearing a journalist's cap, not a jumper's helmet. Inspired by the impressive comeback of US Nordic combined athlete Todd Lodwick, who won gold in two individual events, Gottwald announced in May 2009 that he was returning to the sport in time for the Vancouver Olympics. Coming off two years as a journalist, Gottwald has quickly returned to his old form, often finishing in the top five on the World Cup this season.
As a boy, Gottwald says he wasn't very talented athletically but learned at a young age to patiently pursue his goals. Six years after his Olympic debut at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics, he had a breakthrough season, winning his first World Cup race. With 14 world championship and Olympic medals hanging at home, the four-time Olympian is now Nordic combined's most decorated athlete. If Gottwald medals in the first two events at these Olympics, he could set a new record for the most medals won in consecutive Olympic events – something Canadian speedskater Cindy Klassen could also do.
A native of Zell am See, Austria, Gottwald now splits his time between there and Ramsau, a quintessential Austrian town at the base of the Dachstein glacier – and a favorite summer training spot for Nordic skiers. Fans can read about his favorite foods (spaghetti), hobbies (biking, golf, and more), and athletic journey on his website or in his autobiography, "Felix Gottwald."
Todd Lodwick, USA
Along with teammates Johnny Spillane and Bill Demong, Lodwick is part of a team that is likely to win America’s first Olympic medal in the sport. He came back from retirement to win an unprecedented two gold medals at Worlds last year. See how Todd trains
Americans to watch: Together with biathlon, Nordic combined is one of two Winter Olympics sports in which America has never medaled. But after dominating World Championships last year, the trio of Demong, Lodwick, and Spillane is headed to Vancouver with more than enough momentum for multiple medals.
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The three Nordic Combined events are:
Traditionally a Norwegian sport, Nordic Combined has been part of the Olympics since the inaugural Games in 1924 for men. The marriage of two very different sports -- ski jumping and cross-country skiing – the Nordic Combined demands both explosive power and endurance from its athletes. The cross-country skiing portion can start as soon as 35 minutes after the jumping event, demanding versatility and a quick shift in the athlete’s focus.
Since women are still not allowed to ski jump at the Olympics, they don’t compete in Nordic Combined either. Those two disciplines are the only two that remain closed to female athletes in either the Summer or Winter Games after years of improvements in gender equality.
Sources: nbcolympics.com, vancouver2010.com