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Posted: Oct 2, 2:07p ET | Updated: Jan 13, 5:52p ET

Torino recap: Nordic combined

Four nations shared all of the awards in the three Nordic combined events at the 2006 Olympic venue, Pragelato. Austria's Felix Gottwald and Germany's Georg Hettich were the stars of the competition, each winning three medals. The U.S. team, ever so close to its first Olympic medal in the sport four years earlier at the 2002 Salt Lake Games, underperformed and did not come close to the podium this time. Worse, they endured an embarrassing, internal squabble that greatly tarnished the experience.

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Individual (February 11, 2006)
There was little surprise to see a German win the Nordic combined individual event; what was surprising was that the winner was Georg Hettich, not his favored teammate, Ronny Ackermann. Hettich, who had never won an individual World Cup event in his career, had the best jumps of the day on the K90 (normal) hill, carried a slim, two-second starting advantage to the skiing portion and held off the field to win, finishing the 15 km skiing portion in 39:44.6.

Austria's Felix Gottwald took the silver medal, finishing 9.8 seconds behind Hettich, while Norway's Magnus Moan claimed the bronze in a photo finish with countryman Petter Tande, 16.2 seconds back.

Two pre-race favorites, Ackermann and Finland's Hannu Manninen, struggled badly and finished 18th and 9th, respectively.

Top U.S. entry Todd Lodwick, competing in his fourth Winter Olympics, finished in eighth place. Lodwick had battled stomach flu earlier in the week and complained of head congestion on race day. After the jumping portion, he said, "I feel like I'm wearing a football field on my head." Bill Demong was 15th, Johnny Spillane finished 30th and Brett Camerota was 38th.

Team (February 15, 2006)
The Nordic combined team event was to be held on one day for the first time in Olympic history at the Torino Games. However, high winds at the Pragelato jumping hill pushed the teams' second jumps and the skiing portion to the following day.

Once the weather was suitable, Austria, with a team of Michael Gruber, Christoph Bieler, Felix Gottwald and Mario Stecher captured its first-ever Olympic gold medal in the event. Stecher entered the final leg of the 4x5km relay 20.8 seconds behind Germany's anchor Jens Gaiser but stormed into the lead on an uphill climb at 3.9km and won by 15.3 seconds. The Germans, who in addition to Gaiser also included Bjoern Kircheisen, Georg Hettich and Ronny Ackermann, were first after the jumps but had to settle for the silver medal. The defending Olympic champions, Finland, captured the bronze medal, finishing 26.8 seconds behind Austria.

The United States team of Johnny Spillane, Carl van Loan, Bill Demong and Todd Lodwick finished a disappointing seventh, leading to an infamous finger-pointing incident between two of the team members, Lodwick and van Loan. Lodwick was sharp in his criticism of van Loan and the American coaching staff, stating, "We've got one guy way out of shape and picked for the team. That's not the athletes' decision; it's the coaches' decision." Van Loan admitted to being the least-productive member of the U.S. team, but criticized Lodwick harshly in his rebuttal: "It was not my best performance and I'm sorry to the team I let them down. That's the best I had and I gave it everything. Todd is not a team player and never has been." An apology from Lodwick and van Loan at a team meeting only partially cooled down the situation.

Sprint (February 21, 2006)
Austria's Felix Gottwald picked up his second gold medal of the Games, rallying for victory in the Nordic combined sprint event. Gottwald made up a 54-second deficit from the morning's jumping portion on the K120 (large) hill, skating the 7.5km in 17 minutes, 35 seconds. Gottwald finished 5.4 seconds ahead of silver medalist Magnus Moan of Norway, and 9.6 seconds ahead of Germany's Georg Hettich. With the gold, Gottwald kept alive a streak of six consecutive Nordic combined events - dating back to the 2002 Salt Lake Games - with a medal (two gold, one silver, three bronze).

The United States had two finishers in the top-10 for the first time in an individual Nordic combined event. Todd Lodwick finished ninth and Johnny Spillane was 10th. The Americans concluded the Torino Games still in search of its first ever Olympic medal in Nordic combined. "I've been an Olympic champion a hundred times in my head," said a disappointed Lodwick. "Sometimes you work really hard and don't accomplish what you set out to." Bill Demong and Eric Camerota finished 25th and 39th, respectively.

Compiled by NBC Olympics


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