Reuters - Mon, 22 Feb 16:18:00 2010
The United States are in intimidating mood ahead of the Nordic Combined team event on Tuesday which could bring the Americans their first ever gold in a sport that mixes ski jumping and cross country.
The US ended a decades-long Olympic Nordic Combined medal drought last week when Johnny Spillane (pictured) picked up silver in the individual normal hill.
"We've got high expectations but those expectations are realistic. They're nothing far-fetched," said Todd Lodwick, who won two golds at last year's World Championships.
"There's probably more pressure on us than ever and we like it. We know that every nation is scared right now, and they know that we know."
Lodwick came fourth in the individual normal hill and team -mate Bill Demong was sixth - evidence that the top three US athletes are a formidable force.
The problem for the Americans is that their fourth member will either be Brett Camerota - who came 36th last week - or 19-year-old Taylor Fletcher, who are both considerably weaker.
This means the United States could fall prey to the Japanese World Championship-winning team from 2009, which has four good athletes of equal ability.
Another threat comes from the experienced Finnish team, which features veteran gold medallist Hannu Manninen.
"We have two guys who won the Olympic team event in 2002... the whole team is the same as the one that won the World Championship in 2007 so we have a team that knows what to do," he said.
France's Jason Lamy Chappuis, who won the gold last week, acknowledged the French team was not strong enough to contend for first place in Tuesday's event.
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