This sport, which combines ski jumping with cross-country skiing, has undergone format changes since the Torino Games. There are still three events on the program, but the cross-country distances for the two individual contests have been standardized to 10km, a change that could make for dramatic finishes at the Olympics.
Here are some key story lines for Vancouver:
Will the United States win its first Olympic Nordic combined medal?
The answer is likely yes. The Americans boast two reigning world champions: 29-year-old Bill Demong, who will be making his fourth Olympic appearance in Vancouver, and 33-year-old Todd Lodwick, who will be making his fifth.
Demong holds the title in the individual large hill competition and is coming off a very consistent season which saw him finish third overall in the final World Cup standings. He has steadily improved over the past several seasons, an ascension he traces back to an accident that nearly ended both his career and his life.
In August 2002, Demong fractured his skull and broke bones in his face diving into a hotel swimming pool. He was forced to take a year off from the sport, something he believes helped him progress to his current level.
"I look at it as a turning point in my career," Demong said. "I grew up a bit. I wasn't able to do much except reflect. So I was able to take a good, hard look at things, and I made a decision to keep skiing, and to change the things that needed to change. That year off allowed me to rebuild. If you look from that year until now, I have been a little bit better every year."
Lodwick, making his fifth Olympic appearance in Vancouver, had never won a world championship medal prior to 2009, when he won gold in both the individual normal hill and non-Olympic mass start events. After the 2006 season, he retired from the sport, only to return competitively in 2008. Lodwick decided to return with two goals in mind: a world championship medal and an Olympic medal. He's halfway there.
"If someone were to write this book, people would never believe that it was true," Lodwick said. "Except I was the one that wrote the book, and I believed in the book, and I said I'm going to write it anyway. If you like apples, how do you like them apples?"
Demong, Lodwick and Johnny Spillane, who won the U.S. Olympic Trials event in December and his first World Cup event in January, give the Americans three medal threats in the two individual events and help make the U.S. one of the frontrunners in the team competition. Though the U.S. Nordic combined squad was hopeful for its first Olympic medal in both Salt Lake and Torino, Vancouver could well be the best chance it has ever had.
Not the only comeback tale
Austrian Felix Gottwald, the most accomplished Nordic combined athlete in Olympic history (2 gold, 1 silver, 3 bronze in four Olympic appearances) retired from the sport in March 2007 but announced his intentions of competing in Vancouver in May. He has won medals in six straight Olympic starts and certainly bears watching in 2010, when he will be 34 years old.
Finland's Hannu Manninen also announced a comeback this summer. Manninen has won an Olympic medal of each color in the team event - silver in Nagano, gold in Salt Lake, bronze in Torino - but has never won an individual Olympic medal despite being one of the favorites in Torino. He announced his retirement in May 2008 to focus on his family and pursue a career as an airline pilot, but has decided to make a run at Vancouver.
Young guns could spoil old guys' party
Finland's Anssi Koivuranta has the talent to win both individual events and lead Finland to a strong performance in the team competition. The 21-year-old reigning overall World Cup champion had a disappointing showing at the 2009 Worlds - he did not win a single medal - but he is an excellent jumper with the ability to dominate when everything goes right for him. Jason Lamy Chappuis competes for France but was born in Missoula, Mont., to an American mother and French father. Chappuis moved to France as a child but still has family in the U.S. With five World Cup victories this season, he has emerged as more than an outside medal contender.
Don't discount this Norwegian. It's Nordic combined, after all
Magnus Moan of Norway was second in the 2008-09 overall World Cup standings but, like Koivuranta, had a disappointing 2009 Worlds, settling for a bronze medal in the team event. Moan won a World Cup event on the Whistler course in January 2009 and is a medal favorite in both individual competitions.