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U.S. claims historic silver in Nordic combined

WHISTLER, British Columbia — In his first Olympics, in Lillehammer, Todd Lodwick was just happy to be there. His third Olympics ended in heartbreak with a fourth-place finish in Salt Lake City. After his fourth Olympics, when he infamously criticized teammate Carl Van Loan, Lodwick retired.

One of the best Nordic combined skiers in U.S. history was content with his career, even if it was medal-less. Or so he thought.

Lodwick, 33, found out Tuesday that it would have been incomplete had he not returned after a two-year hiatus.

The U.S. won a medal in Nordic combined team competition for the first time in history, as Lodwick, Johnny Spillane, Bill Demong and Brett Camerota finished second to Austria. Germany took the bronze.

"We won silver today, and we marked ourselves in history as a team, and that's really cool," Lodwick said. "....This is my fifth Games, and my first medal, and I couldn't be more proud."

This was the third Olympics for Lodwick, Spillane and Demong. They had trained together, traveled together and suffered together to get here. The silver medal was the payoff for the disappointment they endured, including the fourth-place finish in the 2002 Olympics, a seventh-place finish at the 2006 Games and a disqualification in the 2009 World Championships after Demong lost his bib.

"This feels awesome," said Spillane, who last week won the silver medal in the normal hill individual event for the U.S.'s first individual Nordic combined medal. "We've worked really hard to get to this point, where we can not have to expect anything special to have these types of results. I felt very fortunate to do that in the first individual and then to be a part of this ground-breaking team event.

"It's a great feeling, because it's a culmination of a lot of years of hard work and a lot of years of disappointment."

The U.S. finished second to Finland in the ski jumping, beginning the 4-by-5 meter relay with a 2-second penalty. They led the Austrians by 34 seconds, but it wasn't enough.

The Austrians chipped away at that lead until Felix Gottwald was able to build a 14.1-second lead over Spillane entering the final leg. Demong took back the lead, but once the race reached the stadium, it belonged to Mario Stecher and the Austrians.

Still, the Americans couldn't have been happier. Before this Olympics, the U.S. had won only two medals in Nordic sports — biathlon, ski jumping, Nordic combined and cross-country skiing. Cross-country skier Bill Koch won a silver in 1976, and Andres Haugen won a bronze in ski jumping in 1924.

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