|Exclusively a men's event, the Nordic combined at the Olympics tests an athlete's durability and agility, as he uses ski jumping skills, plus the endurance of a cross-country program.|
Nordic Combined events were mostly held in Norway by the mid-19th century during ski carnivals. The nordic combined was the premier competition at the carnivals and a separate cross-country event was not held until the 1900s.
There are three events in nordic combined at the Olympics, individual, sprint and team formats.
The Nordic events will take place at Pragleto, which is approximately 80 kilometers from Torino.
For the individual and team events, ski jumping takes place on the normal hill (106 meters). For the sprint event, ski jumping takes place on the large hill (140 meters). The cross-country portion of the individual event has a 15- kilometer race, the sprint event has a 7.5km race, and the team event has a 4x5km relay.
In the individual competition (Saturday, February 11), each athlete takes normal hill leaps in the morning. Each jump is scored for length and style. Later that day, each athlete will compete in the 15-kilometer cross-country event.
The sprint event is also the same day (Tuesday, February 21), with the large-hill competition in the morning and the 7.5km cross-country race in the afternoon. Different from the individual event, the jumping part of the sprint is performed on the large hill and includes one jump instead of two.
In the team competition (Wednesday, February 15), each country consists of four jumpers who will take two jumps off the normal hill. The team's score in the jumping portion is the total score of the eight jumps. The same skiers who participate in the jumps must take part in the 4x5km relay, which is held later that afternoon, about three hours after the jumping portion of the team event. The winner is the team whose final skier crosses the finish line first.
TOP CONTENDERS AND CURRENT CHAMPIONS
It's no surprise that Finnish and Norwegian athletes have been supreme in this discipline. Norwegians have captured 10 out of 18 possible gold medals in the individual competition.
Samppa Lajunen and Jaakko Tallus combined for gold and silver medals for Finland four years ago in Utah, while Austria's Felix Gotwald earned the bronze medal.
Gotwald also had bronze medals in the sprint and team events and will be participating in his fourth Olympics. He's had tremendous progress since 1994, when he was 37th in the individual. Gotwald, 30, was fourth in the team competition and 21st in the individual in 1998 before his medal surge in 2002.
Germany's Ronny Ackermann, the individual winner at the 2005 World Championships, earned silver medals in the team and sprint competitions in 2002. He also has a great chance at gold in the individual now also.
Finland's Hannu Manninen returns for his fourth Olympics after picking up a gold in the team event at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.
UNITED STATES/CANADIAN OUTLOOK
The U.S. has never won a medal in nordic combined at the Olympics. Todd Lodwick again gives the Americans their best chance to break that mold as he heads to his fourth Winter Games.
If four years ago is any indication, this just may be the big year for the U.S. Nordic team. Lodwick helped the U.S. to the best result at the Games, as he was fifth in the sprint, seventh in the individual and helped the team to a fourth-place showing in the relay.
Joining Lodwick on the U.S. team will be Brett Camerota, Eric Camerota, Bill Demong, Johnny Spillane and Carl Van Loan. This will be the third Olympics for Demong.
Jason Myslicki will be the first Canadian to compete in the Olympics in Nordic since 1988.
- Eric Gold, Olympic Staff Writer