What makes a true champion? After reading USA’s Bill Demong IN HIS WORDS, post a comment on what you think.
One of my highlight events covering these Olympic Games was the Nordic Combined large hill competition. After a morning of difficult jumping in ever-changing wind conditions, Bill Demong skied a beautiful 10-K cross-country race to win the gold medal. His is the first gold ever by an American in Nordic combined skiing at the Olympic Games.
It’s a part of a major breakthrough for the US team, which includes Johnny Spillane and Todd Lodwick. Spillane won silver in the same race. Earlier, they won a silver medal in the team competition, and Johnny Spillane started the Games by winning silver in the normal hill event. For an interesting take on the team competition, check out Jeff Hastings’ XTorinoX Vancouver Seen blog entry.
Here’s Bill Demong IN HIS WORDS
The Importance of Team:
It’s just been a really good team that’s built upon each other’s success in training and competition, and had worked really hard to be together and put the time in. So, for the last ten/ twelve years, even back to fifteen years, ago we’ve lived in the same town; we’ve trained together over 200 days a year; traveled together in the winter time; kind of like a band of brothers. We share in each other’s successes and build upon that.
So, starting with Todd in the nineties with some World Cup victories and podiums, and then Johnny and I coming up -and Johnny winning a World Championship in 2003 – to win a bunch of medals at the last World Championship (2009).
I think not only have we built on each other, but we’ve also helped the next generation – getting some of the younger guys on the world junior podium, and to take steps on the World Cup, All this just by being together and making that commitment to be the best we can be – being a small sport in a big country.
Olympic Heritage: Growing up in Lake Placid
(Just before Bill Demong was born, his mother — 8-months pregnant—watched most of the events at the Lake Placid Winter Games, including Eric Heiden’s five medal performance on the speedskating oval. She watched with a three other friends who were also expecting.)
There was myself, and three of my good friends growing up in Saranac Lake, Lake Placid, all of our mothers were friends, all of them taking the free seats at the oval, outside the fence, going out to the medal ceremony on the ice. They sort of did the whole Olympics, 8 months pregnant together. I was steeped in those stories as a small child, as I started skiing and diving into my own dreams. You know growing up in that town, where the most obvious man-made structure over 150 miles is the K-120 ski jump, it was easy to sort of daydream about Olympic things.
I started at 3 or 4. I do remember my first real time in a race, which was at the same place where they hosted the biathlon in the Lake Placid Olympics. I remember doing a little 1k or 2 K race. I raced against one of the kids in the Burke family (Tim is now on the US biathlon team). It all started then, and we all grew up together, racing every Tuesday night, and traveling on the weekends around New York and New England, and eventually we added ski jumping to our repertoire when we were 8 or 9 years old. That’s when the Nordic combined story started for us.
The Salt Lake Games in 2002 – falling short of the podium.
(Competing at their “home” Games, the same three Americans finished in fourth place in the team competition.)
There was a lot of expectations in our home Olympics, in 2002, and we put a lot of expectations on ourselves that maybe weren’t just naturally there — and, for sure, I think that led us to greater heights over time.
Going into the 2002 Games, we were trying to believe that we could do it because we hadn’t. Since then, we’ve won World Cups and World Championships. coming into these Games we were much more trusting of the things that we do every day.
A sobering accident in 2002:
(Demong missed a year of competition after cracking his skull in a non-competition accident).
Following the 2002 Olympics, we were competing n Germany, and actually had a really good day on the hill, with two of us on the podium.
We were screwing around in the pool, and I dove in and cracked my skull on the bottom of the pool. We were doing flips and everything else. It ended up costing me a year of jumping. I had such a severe skull fracture and hematoma, that the doctors were like no, you got to take a year off. So, during that year, I did a lot reflection. I went back to school and got a lot of other things going in my life. Even though I was skiing well at that time, I think the year off gave me a lot of perspective, and renewed my dedication to the sport. I had a year with a lot of other things going on in my life, and that kind of gave me the longevity to still be here today, and kind of see myself mature as an athlete to the point where I was a competitor for the podium.
After 2002, the fourth place devastated me, I really expected a medal and I think we tried to all believe in it and expect it, and it was something we struggled to do in those four years leading into it. After it was over, it was like it didn’t happen, and I was devastated.
The accident gave me perspective. I came here thinking no matter what happens in these Games, what I learned from that year off, is that I enjoy what I do, I try my best, and it’s sport and I’ll enjoy myself here no matter what the result.
-Bill Demong, Gold medalist, Nordic Combined Large Hill.