The format for the Nordic Combined Team event consists of 4 athletes per team, each making one jump and tallying the jump scores to convert the points to time gaps to seed the cross country race. Each athlete races 5 kilometers tagging their teammate. The team that crosses the finish line first, wins.
The American team jumped well with Erik Lynch leading the team with a jump of 100 meters, followed by Cliff Field at 96 meters, Michael Ward 94.5 meters and Adam Loomis at 93 meters. The team placed 7th after jumping but only 56 seconds back from the leaders. It was the first time in many years team USA was inside a minute at the start of the cross country.
After jumping, Germany was the leader followed by Norway 10 seconds back and Finland in 3rd 23 seconds back. Austria was 4th 25 seconds back, Poland 5th 43 seconds back, Russia 6th 48 seconds back, USA 7th 56 seconds back, Italy 8th 58 seconds back, Japan 9th 1:02 seconds back, Slovenia 10th, 2:27 back and France 11th, 2:33 back.
The weather at the cross country venue in Kandilli was still cold and the snow was very cold and very dry. There was some illness circulating thru some teams and we had a couple guys that were suffering from colds. Michael Ward was healthy and the guys decided he should start first. Michael skied great! He caught up to Russia & Poland in the first kilometer and moved into 5th place. Over the remaining kilometers Michael skied strong making up time on all the athletes. In the 2nd 2.5km lap, Michael also passed Finland and put the team in 4th. At the end of the first leg, Austria was in 1st, Germany 2nd, Norway 3rd and USA 4th! Not far behind, 4 teams had come together including Italy, Finland, Russia and Poland. Michael skied the fastest leg and had the fastest overall time on the day!
Michael tagged Erik. Norway passed Germany to take 2nd. After 500 meters Erik caught Germany. The other teams were gaining ground, so Erik made a move and passed Germany and team USA was in the Bronze medal position. Erik went into the big 350 climb skiing hard, with Germany on his tail and the other teams starting to move up. The teams came together on the climb and were all in a pack from 3rd thru 8th. Austria was alone in 1st followed by Norway in 2nd. In the 2nd lap, Italy was able to make a break from the pack and was clearly in 3rd.. Erik hung on the best he could, but it was clear the virus had was battling took it’s toll and Erik began to fall back.
At the 3rd tag, Austria was the clear leader with Germany 2nd 24 seconds back and Italy & Norway now battling for Bronze in 3rd & 4th followed by Russia, then a gap to Finland & Poland skiing together and USA 20 seconds back. Ou next skier, Cliff Field battled hard, but was skiing on his own and was not able to advance the team. Adam Loomis skied anchor but was too far back at the start of his leg to contend. He skied hard but it was clear we weren’t going to advance. Adam brought the team home in 8th. The guys battled hard, but we knew we needed 4 strong healthy guys to contend. They left it all on the course, saving nothing back. That is all we could ask for.
Austria won the gold, Italy won silver and Germany hung on for the bronze. Norway was 4th, Russia placed a surprising 5th, Finland was 6th, Poland 7th, USA 8th, Japan 9th, France 10th and Slovenia 11th. Many nations didn’t field a 4 man team.
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This is my first time out of the U.S. and competing at the U18 Scando Cup in Finland. This has been the best experience and I am so motivated to get to the next level. Kittos (Thanks in Finnish)- Mattie Watts