Updated Jan. 14
In 2010, USA TODAY dispatched me to Whistler Olympic Park nearly every day. The biggest story I was supposed to follow: The USA looked likely to get its first medal in Nordic combined, the sport in which athletes test themselves on the ski jump and the cross-country course.
And it’s a fun event to watch. The cross-country race start order is determined by the ski jump results. The farther back you are in the ski jump, the longer you have to wait while the leader leaves you in the dust.
The bad news: The USA is nowhere near that strength this time around. Two-thirds of the old guard is still around — Bill Demong and Todd Lodwick put off retirement a little longer — but they’re not top contenders. That said, the team can still be in the mix — Demong, Lodwick and the Fletcher brothers (Taylor and Bryan) were third in the World Championships. Each Fletcher has had a moment or two of World Cup success.
Away we go …
LARGE HILL/10k RACE
Gold: Eric Frenzel (Germany)
Silver: Wilhelm Dinifl (Austria)
Bronze: Jason Lamy-Chappuis (France)
Also considered: Bernhard Gruber (Austria), Mikko Kokslien (Norway), Akito Watabe (Japan)
2013 World Championship top 8: Frenzel, Gruber, Lamy-Chappuis, Watabe (Japan), Hideaki Nagai (Japan), Denifl, Sebastien Lacroix (France), Magnus Moan (Norway)
2010 Olympic medalists: Bill Demong (USA), Johnny Spillane (USA), Gruber
NORMAL HILL/10k RACE
Gold: Jason Lamy-Chappuis (France)
Silver: Eric Frenzel (Germany)
Bronze: Mikko Kokslien (Norway)
Also considered: Bernhard Gruber (Austria), Alessandro Pittin (Italy), Akito Watabe (Japan)
2013 World Championship top 8: Lamy-Chappuis, Mario Stecher (Austria), Bjoern Kircheisen (Germany), Frenzel, Haavard Klemetsen (Norway), Taihei Kato (Japan), Marjan Jelenko (Slovenia), Christoph Bieler (Austria)
2010 Olympic medalists: Lamy Chappuis, Bill Demong (USA), Alessandro Pittin (Italy)
TEAM (LARGE HILL/4x5k)
Also considered: Austria, Japan, USA
World Cup Nation Cup 2012-13 top 8: Germany, Norway, Austria, France, Japan, USA, Czech Republic, Slovenia
2013 World Championship top 8: France, Norway, USA, Japan, Austria, Germany, Italy, Finland
2010 Olympic medalists: Austria, USA, Germany
World Cup 2012-13 top 8: Eric Frenzel (Germany), Jason Lamy-Chappuis (France), Akito Watabe (Japan), Bernhard Gruber (Austria), Magnus Moan (Norway), Tino Edelmann (Germany), Mikko Kokslien (Norway), Wilhelm Denifl (Austria)
Wilhelm Denifl (Austria): Career-best eighth in 2013, his 14th World Cup season. Never been to Olympics in all that time. Better on large hill, including third behind Gruber and Frenzel in 2013 World Cup event.
Tino Edelmann (Germany): Several World Championship medals, two in individual events. Top 10 in the last four World Cup seasons.
Eric Frenzel (Germany): 2013 World Cup champion. 2011 World Championships: 1st and 3rd. 2013 Worlds: 1st and 4th.
Bernhard Gruber (Austria): Best World Cup season finish is fourth. But he has an Olympic medal and a World Championship medal.
Jason Lamy-Chappuis (France): American-born. 2010 gold medalist; World Cup champion three straights years (2010-2012). Second in 2013 World Cup. Gold and bronze in individual events in 2013 World Championships.
Björn Kircheisen (Germany): Third in 2003 and 2006 World Cups. Fifth in 2012, 11th in 2013. Three-time Olympian. Several scattered World Championship medals.
Mikko Kokslien (Norway): Second in 2011 World Cup; third in 2012.
Magnus Moan (Norway): Silver and bronze at 2006 Games. Second overall in 2006 and 2009 World Cups; slipped to 12th in 2011 and 2012 but has a few wins.
Alessandro Pittin (Italy): Seventh in 2012 World Cup, buoyed by three straight wins at same venue (normal hill). Competed little in 2013 World Cup season.
Mario Stecher (Austria): Going for fifth Olympics. Individual World Championship silver medals in 1999 and 2013.
Akito Watabe (Japan): Second in 2012 World Cup, third in 2013.