Demong and Spillane fare well in Finland |

Demong and Spillane fare well in Finland

Paul Robbins, Special to the Record

After the 2002 Olympics, the U.S. nordic combined squad relocated its training base from Steamboat Springs, Colo., to Park City.

New Yorker Billy Demong and Steamboat homegrown Johnny Spillane made the move. Five years later, Spillane has returned to Steamboat, where he’ll be married next June 14 but Demong continues to live in Park City.

Over the weekend, the only two nordic combined medal-winners in U.S. history started the 2008 World Cup in frigid Kuusamo, Finland, and each of them bagged a podium. Friday, Spillane – so slowed over the last four seasons by injury – was second in an individual event (the one with the 15-kilometer race); Saturday, Demong chipped in a third-place finish to get the season off to a screaming start.

"It’s only one weekend, so we have to keep it in perspective," said Coach Lasse Ottesen, who’s Norwegian and whose inner voice says to take things conservatively. Be patient, he hears. Be patient, he preaches.

Delighted with the weekend, and the confidence building which took place each day, he nonetheless reminded the two three-time Olympians that Kuusamo is already ancient history.

This gives the guys the good message that their training was good and they’re on the right track, but it’s still the beginning of the season, not the end," he reasoned. "We have to start over next weekend [in Trondheim, Norway] and do it again.

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"We have to make sure to stay on our game."

Spillane and Demong are buying what Ottesen’s selling. They understand exactly what he’s telling them.

Spillane was the sprint gold medalist at the 2003 World Championships in Italy. He has good memories of Trondheim, capturing three podiums in 48 hours during an epic weekend.

Demong, individual event silver medalist last March at Worlds in Japan, is just as ready as his saddle mate to make it happen again. "I’m not in full racing form yet," he said, noting when they went early to Kuusamo to get some additional jump training, it also was the first time he had been skiing on snow since the U.S. championships in March.

"We’re both satisfied with the results," Demong said, "but Johnny and I both know we have stuff to work on. This season’s not over by any means."