Source: US Ski Team
SAPPORO, Japan (March 3) – Bill Demong (Vermontville, NY), starting 100 seconds back after jumping, out-sprinted Finn Anssi Koivuranta by two-tenths of a second Saturday to collect the silver medal in the nordic combined individual event at the 2007 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships, only the second medal in combined by a U.S. skier at the Olympics or World Championships.
Germany's Ronny Ackermann, fifth after jumping and starting 34 seconds behind leader Jason Lamy Chappuis of France, broke away for his third consecutive individual world championship. That left Demong, a three-time Olympian, and Koivuranta, second in jumping – 12 seconds back to start the 15K, to compete for silver.
Demong, eighth after jumping – 1:40 back of Lamy Chappuis, stalked Koivuranta, caught him at about 14Ks and stayed with him into the stadium before out-skiing him to the finish. Demong's medal is the second by an American combined skier following the sprint gold medal won at the 2003 Worlds by Johnny Spillane (Steamboat Springs, CO), who was 20th Saturday despite a painful shoulder injury.
“I didn't think about it. I just kept looking forward, kept looking ahead. I had Atomic rockets and I kept pushing them forward all the time,” Demong said of his race plan. He wasn't looking to “get a ride” from any of the other big guns who might be coming up in the four-lap race at the Shirahatayama cross country complex.
“I traded in those two photo finishes for a medal at Worlds,” he said, referring to losing a photo finish for third place in two World Cups a week apart in early January.
Ackermann won in 38:35.6 with Demong taking silver in 38:44.1 and Koivuranta .2 back for bronze. Lamy Chappuis faded to 15th, three minutes out, while Spillane – 10th after jumping – was 20th, 3:42.3 back. Brett Camerota (Park City, UT) won a photo finish for 31st place and his twin brother Eric was 44th.
Medal caps long two weeks
Demong told a press conference he may have benefited from a dropoff in jump training at week's end when winds were bothersome and he was losing his concentration on the event although it was the competition he had singled-out as where he could turn-in a top result.
After 2-1/2 weeks in Japan, he said, “I started to focus on more training and was losing [race focus]. I was a little far off on the jump and I was losing my expectations. It was good today to come into this just trying to do my best on the jump hill and cross country.”
“I had really good skis and my body felt 100 percent today. I never felt I needed somebody in front of me. I took the next guy in my sights and went for him,” he told journalists.
Still, as he neared Koivuranta and could sense he was closing in on a medal, Demong said he played a mental game with himself so he didn't think too much about the podium.” This is my first podium since 2002 [when he won a pre-Olympic World Cup in Liberec, Czech Republic], my first top-10 in the Olympics or Worlds. I think I started to play a game in my head to keep my mind off that I was actually in third.
“I wanted to forget what was on the line, to make this just a ski race.” He set a new goal of catching Ackermann. Demong's tactic worked as he skied up to the young Finn, skied with him and then passed him in a close duel for the finish.
Mind game pays off
Demong, who could have gone into the adjoining lane on Koivuranta's right for the final 100 meters, said he felt he was being squeezed almost off the track as he passed Koivuranta over the last 40 meters.
“When I crossed the finish, I was in a different race. When I crossed the finish, it was, 'Oh, there's another guy ahead of me, not Ronny.' I wasn't thinking this was Worlds, that I'd won a medal…it took about 10-15 minutes to pull it back in,” Demong said.
He regained some confidence Friday night after conferring with coaches and watching some previous good jumps – in training in Park City, UT, the U.S. Ski Team's home base, as well as combined World Cups in Germany over the last two months.
“I had a good feeling coming into this,” said Demong, who is skiing the best cross country of his career. “I did some video homework and I was relaxed, ready to ski.”
“Billy really stepped up today. He was ready to go,” Head Coach Lasse Ottesen said. “We did some video last night; we looked back at some good stuff, some good jumps in training in Park City before we came here and in the World Cups in Oberstdorf and Ruhpolding [Germany, where he lost a photo finish for third place on consecutive weekends]…did some side-by-sides, and looked at his good stuff.
Lack of troublesome winds was a plus
“The wind wasn't such a big factor today, so he could have some good jumps…and then he went right at it in the race,” Ottesen said. “This was definitely the comp we looked forward to.
“And if anyone deserved it, it was Bill. He's got such a strong work ethic and he's been doing a helluva job all season. Hopefully, he's shown everyone else, too, that you have to work hard and believe in yourself – that's so important – to get a medal. They don't just hand these out; you can't buy 'em anywhere. You work for 'em.”
Ottesen, ski jumping silver medalist for Norway at the 1994 Winter Games in his homeland, said he and Demong discussed a race plan as they came to Shirahatayama. Demong said he didn't want to start too fast, yet ski fast enough so the high-speed athletes behind him wouldn't be gaining time and, at the same time, he could gain on Lamy Chappuis and the others up front. “I told him 'You're in a good position and you need to say ,'Let's go for it from the start.' I said to ski with your head, particularly in the beginning…
“It was 40 minutes of pain on a slushy and tough course. Billy did such a good job.”
The next World Cup combined competition is next weekend in Lahti, Finland, for the Lahti Ski Games and then the traditional nordic combined finale March 17-18 at Holmenkollen in Oslo.
Audio of Bill Demong from his silver medal finish is available at www.ussamedia.com.
Photos from Sapporo are availble at http://ussa.smugmug.com.
2007 FIS NORDIC WORLD SKI CHAMPIONSHIPS
Miyanomori Jumping Hill/Shirahatayama course
Sapporo, JPN – March 3, 2007
Nordic Combined Individual
1. Ronny Ackermann, Germany, (5/8)
2. Bill Demong, Vermontville, NY, (8/2) 8.5 seconds back
3. Anssi Koivuranta, Finland, (2/13) 8.7
4. Christoph Bieler, Austria, (3/18) 59.3
5. Felix Gottwald, Austria, (17/3) 1:07.2
20. Johnny Spillane, Steamboat Springs, CO, (10/33) 3:42.2
31. Brett Camerota, Park City, UT, (35/28) 5:35.3
44. Eric Camerota, Park City, UT, (43/37) 7:25.6
For complete results: