There was no question in my mind that I wanted to go make history. I knew I was capable. I knew that I was still an athlete. I feel I’m very young, and I feel I can compete at the top level. —Todd Lodwick
PARK CITY — Some may have doubts about what Todd Lodwick can accomplish in the grueling sport of Nordic combined at age 37.
But the father of two has never questioned whether he should attempt to make his sixth Olympic team.
“There was no question in my mind that I wanted to go make history,” said Lodwick after earning an unprecedented sixth trip to the Winter Olympics by winning a team trial event at Utah Olympic Park Saturday. “I knew I was capable. I knew that I was still an athlete. I feel I’m very young, and I feel I can compete at the top level. I hope I have a performance like this in Sochi.”
Lodwick had the best jump of the day, which gave him a 36-second head start on 2010 Olympic teammate Billy DeMong in the cross-country section of the race.
“Before the start, I knew there was a chance,” DeMong said. “I went out hard. ... Right away he started moving farther away. I knew early on that I didn’t have it today.”
DeMong was not surprised at Lodwick’s win.
“I’m never surprised by what Todd pulls off at home,” DeMong said. “He certainly has proven time and time again never to count him out, especially in Park City or Steamboat. It’s actually pretty impressive.”
DeMong ended up third, with Bryan Fletcher moving from third place after the ski jump to finish second overall. Fletcher was 17 seconds behind Lodwick.
“Toward the end, with the high winds and tough trail, I was starting to realize, it wasn’t going to be possible,” Fletcher said of catching Lodwick. “I was kind of sitting around 15 seconds back and I wasn’t coming any closer. I gave it my all, but I couldn’t quite get there.”
Lodwick said he knew if he could get to the top of the hill on the final lap, he could coast to a victory.
“It’s never over until the finish line,” Lodwick said smiling. " ... The finish line itself is really at the top of that hill on the last lap. As stiff as my right leg was going up that last lap, I knew all I had to do was get to the top of that, and I could rest a bit and then power to the finish line.”
Lodwick said it’s a relief to officially be on his sixth Olympic team, but he’s not interested in just participating.
“Winning today was definitely a monkey off the back in being able to say that I am in fact going to my sixth Olympic Games,” Lodwick said. “It’s a daunting and humbling statement, but I don’t think there was any doubt in my mind, even before this competition, that I was going to make my sixth team as long as I trained hard and competed well.”
He said finishing fourth in the same race where teammate Johnny Spillane won the first Nordic combined medal for the United States (a silver), was a bittersweet moment for him.
“I don’t have an individual medal,” Lodwick said of why he continues to compete. “I want to be on that podium. And to tell you the truth, being fourth in that first event by seven-tenths of a second, that one stung, and it still stings when I talk about it. To train 20 years for seven-tenths of a second short, come on, Really? Also in that same moment, the United States made history; my teammate made history, and I was there to support him.”
Lodwick and DeMong are confident the team, which will likely include Fletcher and DeMong, and possibly Bryan’s brother Taylor Fletcher (who moved from eighth to fourth because he’s so strong in skiing), will be even stronger than the history-making 2010 team.
“We have an unbelievable team,” Lodwick said. “I have a lot of faith our hard work is going to pay off in Sochi.”
Added DeMong: “If we keep moving in the direction we are, in team events and almost all of us as individuals, we’ll have as strong or stronger a team than we had four years ago.”