Demong continues streak
Three-time Olympian Bill Demong, part of the athlete influx to Park City because of training and Olympic opportunities, hopes his roll continues for another two weeks.
It started March 3 in Sapporo, Japan, when he stormed the Nordic combined individual event podium, taking home the silver medal from the World Championships.
And last Friday, Demong – who turns 27 on the 29th of this month and has called Park City home since the combined team relocated from its Steamboat Springs, Colo., training base following the 2002 season – picked off the second World Cup victory of his career. He won the individual event (two ski jumps and a 15-kilometer race) at the Lahti Ski Games in Finland, one of the upper-shelf competitions in Nordic sports.
The win was good, but what really tasted sweet was the fact that this win was legit. In 2002, Demong won his first World Cup, but he conceded in a phone interview, that victory chafed a bit because some of the sport’s top athletes didn’t compete when Germany and Finland boycotted the race to protest unsafe wind conditions the previous day.
"That’s always bothered me a little, but everyone was here this time," he said. In 2002, in the lead-up to the Salt Lake Olympics, Demong won by two seconds; Friday, he was six seconds ahead after taking the lead midway through the 15K race.
"I was running out of steam, though,’ he admitted, while Germany’s Sebastien Haseney had a full head of steam as he closed in – but ran out of territory – at the end.
"I’m psyched to put another result back to back, just for my own confidence, that I didn’t get lucky [in the sprint at Worlds], that this really is the shape I’m in," Demong said. "It’s nice to put together two in a row like this…
"Today was good because I was out there by myself for the last 7.5 Ks…off the front, on my own. I didn’t ski the best tactical race, but this is a hard course. It’s an all-new course and it almost bit me.
"I was putting it out during the first five Ks but I was hanging on for the last 10. Well, that’s probably a little exaggeration, but it’s really tough. When I spit out [No. 2 jumper Austrian Christoph] Bieler, I said ‘Let’s imagine there’s somebody 20 seconds, or maybe 30 seconds, in front and I have to go get him.’ Those last five Ks I was digging deep, just kept putting one foot after the other…
"I took three [liquid] feeds and the last one kicked in for that last kilometer, gave me a little bit of juice in the legs," he said.
Head Coach Lasse Ottesen said, "Billy showed everyone that the medal he won last weekend in Sapporo wasn’t a fluke, wasn’t a one-time lucky deal – that he’s the real deal. He’s shown that all year, but he just hasn’t gotten to the podium," a reference to two photo finishes for third place which Demong lost each time.
After missing out on both of those finishes in Germany in January, Demong said, "I’ll get there [to the podium] next time." He closed that deal in Sapporo, earning the silver medal as he overtook and then held off Finland’s Anssi Koivuranta by two-tenths of a second.
This week, the Nordic combined World Cup concludes at the Vatican of Nordic skiing, Oslo’s Holmenkollen Park, high above the port city and capital. The individual event – the King’s Cup, traditionally presented by King Harald of Norway – is Saturday with the sprint Sunday. And then it’s back to Steamboat Springs, Colo., for the combined national championships, doubling-up March 24-25 with jumping nationals.
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Park City at the start of 2021 is preparing for the return of numerous special events, something that could help reignite Park City’s tourism-heavy economy and re-create some of the energy that was lacking in 2020.