Two years after Vancouver, Billy Demong charging for 2014
March 6, 2012
Two weeks after the most important day of his life, Billy Demong sat in a room in Oslo, Norway, with head coach Dave Jarrett, pondering what his next move would be.
The Park City resident had just won a gold medal in the 10 km individual large hill in Vancouver at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games — the first American to ever win Olympic gold in a Nordic combined event — and also became engaged after proposing to now wife Katie.
As Demong sat in Oslo with his head coach, he thought of what would come next in his professional life.
"I’ve always been willing to have long-term plans for skiing and in life in general," he said. "It was either, ‘I’m done now,’ or, ‘I’m going another four.’"
The plan, according to Demong, would favor the latter. Now 31, Demong said the agenda was lengthy: Rebuild his house in Park City, start a family with his fiancée and as he said, "Use that as a year off — as time to charge the batteries."
Two years after sitting in that room in Oslo, Demong is making a dramatic charge for 2014.
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"It’s been a pretty solid season for me this year," he said. "Especially coming back from last year where I spent a lot of time on life and catching up after the Olympics.
"It’s exactly the season I need two years out from the Olympics. It gives me perspective on what it is I need to work on. I think it’s better to be reaching for the Olympics, than settling."
And now, Demong has company.
Both the American Nordic combined and cross-country teams are loaded with young talent, he said, as up-and-comers such as brothers Bryan and Taylor Fletcher, Park City’s Nick Hendrickson and Brett Denney are making a name for themselves on the international level. Demong said he is no longer the teacher to the young crew, but a friendly rival.
"What skiing I did was trying to show them the way, being the rabbit," he said. "They’ve taken such strides forward. It was good for them, but it’s good for me to have them around, too."
Initially, Demong said he was the No. 1 fan of the youngsters during his time off after Vancouver. But now that he’s back to skiing and competing full time, things have changed.
"It’s kind of hard when you’re the one at the top of your sport," he said. "I’m always more and more afraid of the younger guys. They’re hungry and able to do some things the older guys aren’t able to do. They’re constantly trying to hone their game, so for me, it’s a good position to be in."
Currently the highest-ranked American on the FIS Nordic Combined World Cup circuit at No. 20, Demong said he’s slowly but surely regaining that drive and the 2014 Games in Sochi are dead in his sights.
But he said handling the traveling away from his young family has been an interesting transition, to say the least. He has tried to globetrot as many times this season as possible, all the while trying to spend as much time as he can at home with Katie and their 14-month-old son, Liam. When he finds the time, he said, he heads out on the cross-country ski trails with his son and dog.
"I’ve been to 25 out of 28 World Cups this year," he said. "But having a family, it’s a much more fulfilling life. It helps me focus on what things are important and prioritizing and skiing and training. A lot of times now, I do important workouts, drop Liam off at day care, get my workout done, then do a couple hours of easy ski and load up the dog and chariot and head over to Round Valley."
As for potential summer plans, the known cycling aficionado said another full season back on the snow has, as of now, slowed his craving to conquer the pavement.
"My age has finally caught up to me," he said, laughing. "The thought of racing in the Tour of Utah — I don’t have the desire to put my life on the line anymore. This summer I’m going to be spending in the area as much as possible."
Outside of off-season training regimens, Demong said he is looking forward to working within the community and defending his title in the annual Memorial Day hill climb at the Utah Olympic Park.
"I’m going to break out the running shoes," he said.
This weekend, Demong returns to Oslo, the same venue where he laid the foundation for his life. Two years later, he says he made the right decision.