KUUSAMO, Finland (Dec. 1) - World Championships medalist Bill Demong (Vermontville, NY) picked up speed over the last part of the race Saturday to earn his first podium of the season in a nordic combined sprint. "We've got improvements to make, but this is a good start for the season," he said.
|Bill Demong competes in the FIS Nordic Combined World Cup Sprint HS 142/7.5 KM event in Kuusamo, Finland. (Agence Zoom/Getty Images)|
Germany's Bjoern Kircheisen and Demong dueled through the first half of the three-lap 7.5K race before the German pulled away. He held off Finn Hannu Manninen to win by 3.1 seconds with Demong 13.8 seconds back. Johnny Spillane (Steamboat Springs, CO), who was on Friday's podium in rebounding from shoulder surgery last spring, finished sixth in the sprint.
"Today was better jumping [than Friday], way better, for sure," said Demong, who was 10th on the 142-meter hill after being 17th Friday in the season opener of the Warsteiner Nordic Combined World Cup schedule. "The race was not that great, but it was good enough. I'm definitely satisfied with my results this weekend, but there's also room to keep improving."
Demong almost started too fast
In his mind, Coach Lasse Ottesen said the key to their second strong performance was their ability to "go back to zero" after celebrating Spillane's podium, and tighten their focus on the sprint. "They enjoyed it but then they got ready for today," he said. After winning the silver medal in the individual event at the 2007 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Japan, Demong ended the 2007 season by finishing third in a World Cup sprint at Holmenkollen above Oslo.
Demong said he almost undid himself Saturday in attacking during the first lap of the race. "I wanted to have a nice, controlled race and I really screwed it up," he explained, "by going from 10th to first at the end of the first lap.
"Going into the stadium, Kirch and I were in eighth and ninth. We went up either side of the crew, and into first and second place. I went inside and he was on the other side, and we got to the front for about a kilometer. But I ended up burning a little too much 'gas' and when he took off, I didn't have the energy to answer," Demong said.
But to come out of the opening weekend with two podiums and two other top-7s left the entire U.S. troupe smiling as it heads toward next weekend's events in Trondheim. In December 2002, Spillane got his first podiums in Trondheim; he had three top-3s in 48 hours.
Coach: "They refocused..."
"We're definitely happy with the first weekend. You come in and you have hopes and dreams of how we can start," Ottesen said, "and this is obviously a good start. The level of competition - both the jumping and the cross-country - is at such a high level in combined right now."
The next step, he said, is to maintain the momentum. "Both guys were able to put yesterday aside and go back to zero...
"So, we enjoy the weekend again tonight, but by Tuesday when we go to Trondheim, we make sure we're staying on our game. We put yesterday aside, put today aside and concentrate on Trondheim. These podiums are great," Ottesen said, "but there are so many good guys out there - and Billy and Johnny are certainly in that group - that we know these podiums don't automatically put us on the podium in the next competition."
The Trondheim events are Saturday and Sunday - an individual event Saturday and another sprint Sunday. 2008 WARSTEINER NORDIC COMBINED WORLD CUP
Kuusamo, FIN - Dec. 1, 2007
Sprint (142-meter jump/7.5K race)
1. Bjoern Kircheisen, Germany, (8/2)
2. Hannu Manninen, Finland, (17/1) 3.1 seconds back
3. Bill Demong, Vermontville, NY, (10/4) 13.8
4. Ronny Ackermann, Germany, (16/7) 17.9
5. Anssi Koivuranta, Finland, (4/8) 31.4
6. Johnny Spillane, Steamboat Springs, CO (15/5) 45.8 Click here for complete results
Bill Demong sprints to third in Kuusamo. (Agence Zoom/Getty Images)
Hannu Manninen of Finland (L), second, Bjorn Kircheisen of Germany (C), first place, and Bill Demong (R) of the U.S. Ski Team, third place, pose on the podium. (Agence Zoom/Getty Images)