When the U.S. Olympic Team walks into Fisht Olympic Stadium on Friday, Feb. 7, for the Opening Ceremony at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, the biggest smile may be on the face of Todd Lodwick.
Lodwick, a Nordic combined skier, will be the first six-time U.S. Olympian in the history of the Olympic Winter Games. He was just 17 years old when he made his Olympic debut in Lillehammer in 1994.
He was selected to be the U.S. flag bearer for the Opening Ceremony.
“Being nominated to carry the flag at the Opening Ceremony is one of the greatest honors that has ever been bestowed upon me,” Lodwick told reporters in Sochi. “I couldn't be more humbled and excited to be selected among all of the great athletes who were vying for this representation. Going into my sixth Olympic Games, it feels like I have already won a medal, and to cap off my career by representing the United States of America and Team USA is truly a privilege.”
An 11-time national champion and 29-time world cup medalist, Lodwick has never medaled individually in the Winter Games. But he has come so close. In Vancouver, he finished fourth in the men’s individual normal hill event. He did earn a silver medal in Vancouver, helping the United States to a podium finish in the team competition. In Salt Lake City in 2002, he was part of the U.S. men‘s team event that finished fourth.
Lodwick, the 37-year-old father of two, hopes to hit the podium stand in Sochi.
“I’m still one of the fastest guys and everyone knows I can jump, including myself,” he told TeamUSA.org. “I feel 100 percent confident that I have a legitimate chance of an individual medal in the Olympic Games in Sochi.”
Nordic combined begins Feb. 12 with the normal hill competition at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center. He and three other athletes — Demong, and brothers Bryan and Taylor Fletcher — make up the U.S. Olympic Nordic Combined Team, and will all compete in the team large hill event Feb. 20.
In Nordic combined, athletes compete in a ski jumping competition followed by a cross-country race. Using a format called the Gunderson method, the ski jumping scores determine start intervals for the cross-country ski race, with the best performers in ski jumping starting first.
Even getting to the hill for the normal hill event will be an accomplishment for Lodwick.
After securing his sixth Olympic berth by winning the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team Trials — Nordic Combined & Ski Jumping on Dec. 28, Lodwick separated his left shoulder at a world cup event in January in Chaux-Neuve, France. He is expected to compete in the Olympic team event on Feb. 20, but the injury may force him to withdraw from the normal hill individual event and the large hill individual event Feb. 18.
Lodwick, who was the first American to win a world cup in Nordic combined when he did so in 1995, held on to his daughter, Charley, after landing the best jump at the 2014 Olympic Trials at Utah Olympic Park in Park City, Utah. Then he handed Charley a bouquet of roses after winning the trials following the cross-country racing portion of the event.
“To say I am going to my sixth Olympic Games is daunting and humbling,” he said after his victory. “I haven’t been this nervous at a race in a long time, and it’s probably what’s been missing on the world cup tour.”
Lodwick will carry that joy into Fisht Olympic Stadium on Friday, having hit a milestone that no other U.S. winter Olympian has ever reached.