LIBEREC, Czech Republic – Billy Demong (Vermontville, NY) upgraded his bronze medal performance with a gold Saturday, winning the final nordic combined event of the 2009 FIS Nordic Ski World Championships. Demong’s gold marks the fourth for the USA at this year’s Championships.
Demong started the cross country race in seventh, but quickly pulled into third and then second around the 3.5K mark. At 6K, he took over first, but was neck and neck with Kircheisen to the finish.
“It was such a calculated race. I was so wrapped up in the strategy and it was really soft snow so I was concentrating on technique. I didn’t think about what the ramifications were until I looked at the big screen and saw myself in the lead crossing the line,” he said.
Germany’s Bjoern Kircheisen finished 12 seconds behind Demong to take silver and Jason Lamy Chappuis of France collected the bronze medal, 31 seconds back.
To say the Americans have had an outstanding World Championships would be an understatement. With the men sweeping three individual events thanks to two golds for Todd Lodwick (Steamboat Springs, CO) and one for Demong, and Lindsey Van winning an historic gold medal in the first World Championships for women’s ski jumping, the 2009 Championships have brought unimaginable success.
Saturday’s gold completed Demong’s World Championship medal collection, having won bronze in the normal hill Gundersen six days ago and a silver medal during the 2007 World Championships in Japan.
“It was especially sweet completing the set with gold today. It was an exceptional race for me,” Demong said.
Headed into the 10k portion, Demong was eighth after the morning’s jumps.
“It was big time gap, but I knew with a really good race it was possible,” Demong said. “Regardless, I was psyched, I like hunting and I knew it was going to be exciting.”
Kircheisen started eight seconds ahead of Demong in the cross country portion and Demong’s moves were highly calculated as he worked out how he would take the German down.
“He starts hard, so I knew I had to let him go a little bit then catch him later. We worked together from that point on, but I knew passing him would be the biggest challenge. I did not want to leave it until the final 100 meters because he is big and a very good sprinter,” Demong said.
With 2k to go, Demong let Kircheisen into the lead.
“I let him go a bit, which gave me a chance to think about how to finish,” Demong said.
As Kircheisen and Demong hammered up the second to last hill, Demong moved into the lead.
“I anticipated his move and he stayed with me until the top of the hill. Going into the stadium up the last little rise we were going full throttle and luckily I had hurt him just enough. I had a little more in the tank,” he said.
Going into Saturday’s race, Demong said he really wanted the win, especially after Thursday when, during the team event, Demong was disqualified for not wearing his bib, which he misplaced.
“I owed it to them,” he said. “Thursday was rough. After it happened it was odd, I actually needed my team’s support. I really felt that I let them down, so today is dedicated to them. They told me to forget about it.”
Reflecting on his team’s performance at Worlds, Demong said his gold was sweet, but standing on the podium with teammate Lodwick was the highlight of his career.
“Todd coming back has made a huge impact on our team. To have a teammate be the guy who was unbeatable has been amazing,” Demong said. “When I think about this Championships, I knew going in we could do it, but there’s a million ways to have it go. We carried our momentum well and were fighting for the win the entire time.”
With the nordic combined events now complete, U.S. Nordic Combined Head Coach Dave Jarrett said the team’s results could not have gone more according to plan.
“Everything did come together the way we envisioned it. It’s more validation because we always thought these results were possible,” Jarrett said. “It validates all the work everyone has done. The whole two weeks here have been incredible.”
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2009 USA NORDIC COMBINED AND SKI JUMPING MEDALS
Gold – Lindsey Van, women’s ski jumping
Gold – Todd Lodwick, nordic combined mass start
Gold, Todd Lodwick, nordic combined Gundersen start, normal hill
Bronze, Bill Demong, nordic combined Gundersen start, normal hill
Gold, Bill Demong, Nordic combined Gundersen start, large hill
2009 FIS NORDIC SKI WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Liberec, Czech Republic – Feb. 28, 2009
Nordic Combined Individual Gundersen (134 meter jump/10K ski)
(jump rank, cross country rank) time back
1. Billy Demong, Vermontville, NY (8/3) 23:36.6
2. Bjoern Kircheisen, Germany (7/4) +12.8
3. Jason Lamy Chappuis, France (1/23) +31.4
4. Janne Ryynaenen, Finland (3/19) +49
5. Magnus Moan, Norway, (34/1) +55.1
10. Todd Lodwick, Steamboat Springs, CO (24/5) +1:13.5
19. Johnny Spillane, Steamboat Springs, CO (40/6) 1:57.2
34. Eric Camerota, Park City, UT(36/34) +3:05.5