Maaninen wins first Nordic combined


KUUSAMO, Finland (USST report) - Hannu Manninen of Finland had the fastest 7.5-kmrace Friday top win the opening nordic combined World Cup event of the season in-15 F. (-25 C.) weather that forced organizers to make it a sprint (one jump,7.5-km race) instead of the normal two-jumps, 15-km. Johnny Spillane (SteamboatSprings, CO) was 10th and Todd Lodwick (also Steamboat) 24th.

"It was the coldest event I've ever been in. We were wearing sweat suits duringthe race," Lodwick said. "You could throw your cup of coffee out the window andwatch it freeze before it hit the ground."

Manninen, who is coming back from a broken shoulder blade suffered in an earlyautumn motorcycle crash, was 23rd in the one-jump round on the 120-meter hillbut overtook the pack to edge defending World Cup champ Ronny Ackermann by 3.4seconds as Germans took the next five spots. Olympic triple champ Samppa Lajunenof Finland was ninth.

Spillane was fourth in the jumping after a blockbuster 140.5-meter jump, butU.S. Head Coach Bard Elden said he was docked style points. The race was trimmedto the 2.5-km loops instead of three 5-kms and, according to Elden, "Johnny ledfor a little over a loop, but then he blew up at the end.

"It was so cold and when you start to lose it, you really blow up big time. Atthese temperatures, it definitely affected all the racers. But, Johnny said ifhe had to do it over again, he'd do the same thing. You want to win, you go forit."

Lodwick was part of the group at the back of the jumping field, which was hit bya small tailwind, which came up midway through the lone round of jumping. "Thisis a hill that really separates the jumpers," Elden said, "and Todd was caughtwith the tail wind or he certainly would've gone farther. Except for Thursday,he and Johnny have done well in training in day."

Kuusamo, FIN Nov. 29
Sprint - 1 K-120 jump, 7.5-km race
1. Hannu Manninen, Finland, (23/1)
2. Ronny Ackermann, Germany, (13/4) 3.4 seconds back
3. Bjoern Kircheisen, Germany, (10/9) 16.8
4. Matthias Wenz, Germany, (3/20) 27.3
5. Georg Hettich, Germany, (9/13) 41.6
10. Johnny Spillane, Steamboat Springs, CO, 4/33, 1:07.1
24. Todd Lodwick, Steamboat Springs, CO, 30/18, 2:33.3
42. Carl Van Loan, Webster, NH, 49/36, 5:06.8
45. Jed Hinkley, Andover, NH, 51/42, 6:59.3