Training canceled for Nordic combined team event
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Ski jump training for the Olympic Nordic combined large hill team event was canceled Wednesday because of the condition of the landing area following steady rain and safety concerns for the athletes.
Rain fell throughout Tuesday’s individual final won by Norway’s Joergen Graabak. It softened the landing area on the ski jump during the event and made a mess of the 2.5-kilometer cross-country course.
“The hill took a real beating yesterday, and we couldn’t do much last night with the continuing rain,” race director Lasse Ottesen said. “The hill was basically a huge ice block this morning when the temperatures dropped, and for the safety of the competitors, we decided to cancel the training.”
Few competitors had arrived before the scheduled 11 a.m. start for training Wednesday under sunny, blue skies and with a fresh dusting of snow on the nearby mountains.
The team gold is scheduled for Thursday, the last Olympic event at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center.
Cross-country training is always optional, and less structured. It was still available to competitors Wednesday, but American Bryan Fletcher was one of only a dozen or so athletes who took part.
Austria is the defending gold medalist from the Vancouver Olympics, when the United States took silver and Germany the bronze.
Mario Stecher can become the first athlete to win three gold medals in Nordic combined if his country wins Thursday. Stecher has two gold medals, equal to retired countryman Felix Gottwald, his teammate in 2010.
Austria also won the event at the 2006 Olympics and can become the first country to win it three times in a row. Japan won the team event in 1992 and 1994.
The U.S. team contains two members who won silver in 2010 — 37-year-old Todd Lodwick, the first American to appear in six Winter Olympics and who carried the flag at the opening ceremonies, and Billy Demong of Park City, Utah, who won the individual large hill gold in Vancouver but who finished 31st on Tuesday here.
They’ll be joined by Fletcher and his younger brother Taylor, both from Steamboat Springs.
The team event is one jump off the large hill. The team with the leading number of points, using the Gundersen method, leads off the 4x5-kilometer relay, with the other countries starting 1.33 seconds later for every point behind.