Japan (March 3) - Bill Demong (Vermontville, NY), starting 100 seconds
back after jumping, out-sprinted Finn Anssi Koivuranta by two-tenths of
a second Saturday to collect the silver medal in the nordic combined
individual event at the 2007 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships, only
the second medal in combined by a U.S. skier at the Olympics or World
Demong edges Anssi Koivuranta to win silver in Sapporo, the second
World Championships medal in U.S. Nordic Combined history (credit:
Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Ronny Ackermann, fifth after jumping and starting 34 seconds behind
leader Jason Lamy Chappuis of France, broke away for his third
consecutive individual world championship. That left Demong, a
three-time Olympian, and Koivuranta, second in jumping - 12 seconds
back to start the 15K, to compete for silver.
Demong, eighth after jumping - 1:40 back of Lamy Chappuis, stalked
Koivuranta, caught him at about 14Ks and stayed with him into the
stadium before out-skiing him to the finish. Demong's medal is the
second by an American combined skier following the sprint gold medal
won at the 2003 Worlds by Johnny Spillane (Steamboat Springs, CO), who
was 20th Saturday despite a painful shoulder injury.
"I didn't think about it. I just kept looking forward, kept looking
ahead. I had Atomic rockets and I kept pushing them forward all the
time," Demong said of his race plan. He wasn't looking to "get a ride"
from any of the other big guns who might be coming up in the four-lap
race at the Shirahatayama cross country complex.
"I traded in those two photo finishes for a medal at Worlds," he said,
referring to losing a photo finish for third place in two World Cups a
week apart in early January.
Ackermann won in 38:35.6 with Demong taking silver in 38:44.1 and
Koivuranta .2 back for bronze. Lamy Chappuis faded to 15th, three
minutes out, while Spillane - 10th after jumping - was 20th, 3:42.3
back. Brett Camerota (Park City, UT) won a photo finish for 31st place
and his twin brother Eric was 44th.
Medal caps long two weeks
Demong told a press conference he may have benefited from a dropoff in
jump training at week's end when winds were bothersome and he was
losing his concentration on the event although it was the competition
he had singled-out as where he could turn-in a top result.
After 2-1/2 weeks in Japan, he said, "I started to focus on more
training and was losing [race focus]. I was a little far off on the
jump and I was losing my expectations. It was good today to come into
this just trying to do my best on the jump hill and cross country."
"I had really good skis and my body felt 100 percent today. I never
felt I needed somebody in front of me. I took the next guy in my sights
and went for him," he told journalists.
Still, as he neared Koivuranta and could sense he was closing in on a
medal, Demong said he played a mental game with himself so he didn't
think too much about the podium." This is my first podium since 2002
[when he won a pre-Olympic World Cup in Liberec, Czech Republic], my
first top-10 in the Olympics or Worlds. I think I started to play a
game in my head to keep my mind off that I was actually in third.
"I wanted to forget what was on the line, to make this just a ski
race." He set a new goal of catching Ackermann. Demong's tactic worked
as he skied up to the young Finn, skied with him and then passed him in
a close duel for the finish.
Mind game pays off
Demong, who could have gone into the adjoining lane on Koivuranta's
right for the final 100 meters, said he felt he was being squeezed
almost off the track as he passed Koivuranta over the last 40 meters.
"When I crossed the finish, I was in a different race. When I crossed
the finish, it was, 'Oh, there's another guy ahead of me, not Ronny.' I
wasn't thinking this was Worlds, that I'd won a medal...it took about
10-15 minutes to pull it back in," Demong said.
He regained some confidence Friday night after conferring with coaches
and watching some previous good jumps - in training in Park City, UT,
the U.S. Ski Team's home base, as well as combined World Cups in
Germany over the last two months.
"I had a good feeling coming into this," said Demong, who is skiing the
best cross country of his career. "I did some video homework and I was
relaxed, ready to ski."
"Billy really stepped up today. He was ready to go," Head Coach Lasse
Ottesen said. "We did some video last night; we looked back at some
good stuff, some good jumps in training in Park City before we came
here and in the World Cups in Oberstdorf and Ruhpolding [Germany, where
he lost a photo finish for third place on consecutive weekends]...did
some side-by-sides, and looked at his good stuff.
Lack of troublesome winds was a plus
"The wind wasn't such a big factor today, so he could have some good
jumps...and then he went right at it in the race," Ottesen said. "This
was definitely the comp we looked forward to.
"And if anyone deserved it, it was Bill. He's got such a strong work
ethic and he's been doing a helluva job all season. Hopefully, he's
shown everyone else, too, that you have to work hard and believe in
yourself - that's so important - to get a medal. They don't just hand
these out; you can't buy 'em anywhere. You work for 'em."
Ottesen, ski jumping silver medalist for Norway at the 1994 Winter
Games in his homeland, said he and Demong discussed a race plan as they
came to Shirahatayama. Demong said he didn't want to start too fast,
yet ski fast enough so the high-speed athletes behind him wouldn't be
gaining time and, at the same time, he could gain on Lamy Chappuis and
the others up front. "I told him 'You're in a good position and you
need to say ,'Let's go for it from the start.' I said to ski with your
head, particularly in the beginning...
"It was 40 minutes of pain on a slushy and tough course. Billy did such a good job."
The next World Cup combined competition is next weekend in Lahti,
Finland, for the Lahti Ski Games and then the traditional nordic
combined finale March 17-18 at Holmenkollen in Oslo.
Audio of Bill Demong from his silver medal finish is available at www.ussamedia.com
Photos from Sapporo are availble at http://ussa.smugmug.com
2007 FIS NORDIC WORLD SKI CHAMPIONSHIPS
Miyanomori Jumping Hill/Shirahatayama course
Sapporo, JPN - March 3, 2007
Nordic Combined Individual
1. Ronny Ackermann, Germany, (5/8)
2. Bill Demong, Vermontville, NY, (8/2) 8.5 seconds back
3. Anssi Koivuranta, Finland, (2/13) 8.7
4. Christoph Bieler, Austria, (3/18) 59.3
5. Felix Gottwald, Austria, (17/3) 1:07.2
20. Johnny Spillane, Steamboat Springs, CO, (10/33) 3:42.2
31. Brett Camerota, Park City, UT, (35/28) 5:35.3
44. Eric Camerota, Park City, UT, (43/37) 7:25.6
For complete results:
Demong celebrates storming from 8th place to finish second in the
nordic combined individual event at World Championships (credit:
Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Bill Demong kisses his silver medal after a spectacular 15K in Sapporo (credit: Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images)