Blog: Graves on Nordic success at Worlds


The story of what is unfolding at the World Nordic Championships in Liberec, is a tale of the United States Nordic program flexing its muscles and truly coming of age.

I remember where I was and what I was doing 27 years ago, when I heard Bill Koch had won the first Olympic Nordic medal for the USA in the 30 km at the Innsbruck Olympic Winter Games. After years of trying a huge barrier had been broken. I was a young radio news reporter fresh out of college at KIUP Radio in Durango.



The story of what is unfolding at the World Nordic Championships in Liberec, is a tale of the United States Nordic program flexing its muscles and truly coming of age.

I remember where I was and what I was doing 27 years ago, when I heard Bill Koch had won the first Olympic Nordic medal for the USA in the 30 km at the Innsbruck Olympic Winter Games. After years of trying a huge barrier had been broken. I was a young radio news reporter fresh out of college at KIUP Radio in Durango.

Shuttle forward a few decades to the last few days, and those feelings of child-like enthusiasm are returning to me for what has been accomplished here. Some thoughts, then, on this week of Nordic celebration.

Lindsey Van’s Gold medal was historic in the debut event of women’s ski jumping. There is no doubt that she, and the other women around the world, whom make up this sport are true pioneers amongst us. Van, 24, of Park City, has spent the better part of her lifetime in the sport. Humble in victory she made it clear that the gold medal was symbolically for “all the women” who have made this happen. Pure class. Let’s hope this will help serve as a springboard to get women’s jumping into the Olympic Games, where they rightfully belong.

Todd Lodwick offers another compelling story. Here’s a guy, who has been on four Olympic teams, and seven world championship teams. He retires following the Torino Games, with the gnawing feeling that he didn’t accomplish all that he might have. The Steamboat native son, talking things over with very supportive wife Sunny, decides to write perhaps the final chapter in a brilliant career. Now a pair of newly won gold medals later, Lodwick is not only back, he’s better than he’s ever been. Stronger, wiser, more mature. I chuckle now when he told me late in the Fall, that he’d be happy with a top 15 pacing this year. Lodwick has always been a big day of game kind of guy, and he’s demonstrated for all to see, that he has plenty of game left.

Billy Demong, who grew up in the shadow of the olympic village of Lake Placid registered another world championships medal Sunday. Demong has been a constant presence among the world’s nordic combined elite for over a decade. It’s hard for me to say Demong is back, because he never really left. Demong, known for his exhaustive training regime, has overcome obstacles, like a fractured skull, throughout his career and he’s never stopped searching for excellence. He’s the kind of guy that would ski into his 90′s if allowed. I like that. Note that the U.S. Team Nordic Combined squad, has had a string of monster performances at recent world championships. Lodwick’s first career major medal this week, Johnny Spillane’s gold in 2003, and Demong’s silver at the worlds in 2007. Now, the hits just keep on coming. All we need now is Al Michael’s Olympic soundtrack from the 1980 hockey game in Lake Placid….”do you believe in miracles, yes…”

Mark this start of the Worlds to be simply superb for the U.S. Cross Country team. Gutsy, Andover, New Hampshire’s, Kris Freeman was in fourth place in the men’s 15 km classic event. The waxing was tricky, most using “hairies” instead of wax in nearly impossible conditions, but the USA hit it right on the button, with a true group effort. Freeman, who knows a thing or three about comebacks and adversity–he has Diabetes and will have surgery March 3 in Vail for painful compartment syndrome–was less than two seconds from a medal. He will concentrate in Liberac on the classical events only. He has never lost confidence. Vermont’s Liz Stephen’s 15th place was also a huge step forward for our women’s program, and we look forward to Kikkan Randall’s skiing in the sprints.

So, it seems that things are coming together. The reason above all: good old American work ethic; Dirt under the fingernails toughness; Strong development programs across our land, amazing athletes, dedicated coaches, great facilities, officials and loving families and support structures that allow for athletic development.

I was at an Eastern Cup race yesterday in Gunstock, announcing the events, witnessing a whole new generation of American Nordic skiers, more kids skiing and racing than at any time in American Nordic history. It made my heart proud. They are all starting, which will be for some, an extraordinary journey.

Kudos all the way around.

No one has ever lost confidence in all of this. USA Nordic it’s time for you to take a bow, you’ve earned it.




NCCA: New Mexico wins RMISA ChampionshipAdaptive: Victor wins third gold medal

Comments

comments



skiracingmag's Latest Youtube Favorite


See more Ski Racing Videos in our Video Vault


Ski Racing Magazine LB1