KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia - Vermontville native Bill Demong finished 24th today in his first nordic combined event of the Sochi Winter Olympics.
The 33-year-old, who won gold and silver medals at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, tied for 31st place with 108.2 points in the jumping portion of the individual 10-kilometer normal hill competition at the RusSki Gorki Ski Jumping Center.
That put him 1 minute, 33 seconds behind Germany's Eric Frenzel, who was the top jumper with 131.5 points, to start the afternoon cross-country ski race.
Billy Demong of Vermontville jumps during the nordic combined individual normal hill 10-kilometer competition today at the RusSki Gorki Ski Jumping Center in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
Demong gained ground in the first 7.5k to cut his deficit at one point to 56 seconds, but by the final lap of the 2.5-kilometer course, he started to fade. He crossed the finish line in 1:49.6 behind Frenzel, who won the gold in a time of 23:50.2. Japan's Akito Watabe, who skied with Frenzel for much of the race, earned silver with 23:54.4, while Magnus Krog of Norway rebounded from 20th place in the ski jumping portion to take bronze in 23:58.3.
Bryan Fletcher of Steamboat Springs, Colo., was 26th overall with a total time of 25:45.7, while his brother Taylor Fletcher, also of Steamboat Springs, finished 33rd with 26:22.9. Six-time Olympian Todd Lodwick did not start the cross-country portion of the event, although he jumped earlier in the day and placed 34th. He's been nursing a shoulder injury.
Demong said he felt great during the cross-country race but ran out of gas near the end.
"I was working my way up and then I ended up getting caught up in a big pileup on the second lap and spent the entire third lap trying to catch back up and kind of blew myself up," Demong said. "But the feeling, the sensations up to that point were good. I think I have capability to put in a good race now. Just got to steer clear of trouble."
Demong said he was happy with his two jumps. His first trial jump was 97 meters, his longest since he arrived in Sochi. He called it his "miracle jump that I didn't think was possible before today."
Demong hit 93.5 meters on his competition jump.
"It's hard to be too upset with my jumps because I've been struggling a little bit this week on that small hill," he said. "I think it's flatter than any hill I've ever skied before. I had my best two jumps today."
Demong said he had better success on the large hill when he came to RusSki Gorki last year, so he's looking forward to the men's individual large hill 10-kilometer competition on Tuesday. That's the event where he won gold in Vancouver.
In the meantime, however, he plans to get a little rest and relaxation in.
"We've been sort of hammer down since we got here," he said. "After today, it's going to be important to find at least one day to maybe go find yourself, be with family, look at some sites and enjoy some other events. I have some training goals I want to hit now and then, but I also want to take in what we're here for."
Demong's mother, Helen, and her husband Joe McPhillips arrived in Sochi Tuesday and made it to the venue today to watch Billy compete. They stood with a group of other parents of U.S. Olympic athletes that included Peter and Jennie Frenette, the parents of ski jumper Peter Frenette, the parents of nordic combined athletes Bryan and Taylor Fletcher and ski jumper Nick Fairall's mom and dad.
Billy Demong said his wife Katie and their 3-year-old son Liam will be arriving in Sochi on Sunday, in time for Tuesday's large hill event. Asked what it will be like to have his son see him compete, Demong said security should be ready.
"I just hope they made the barriers big enough to keep him back," he said. "He has a tendency to try to run into the out-run when I'm jumping."