LIBEREC, Czech Republic (Feb. 26) - The USA suffered a blow in the nordic combined team event at the FIS Nordic Ski World Championships when Billy Demong (Vermontville, NY) was disqualified for not having a starting bib. In a surprise, Japan won the event in a photo finish over Germany, as Norway faded in the final 500 meters.
Demong was disqualified by officials at the top of the jump as he prepared for his single competition jump. The remaining three U.S. athletes did jump. The team stood 12th of 12 teams after the jumping round and will withdrew from the cross country portion.
According to Demong, between the trial round and the competition, he had tucked the starting bib into his jumping suit, as is customary when it's snowing so the bib doesn't soak up water. And he had looked at the bib on the chairlift ride up to the start to ensure he had the correct number and it was secure.
As he prepared for his jump, he was unable to find the bib in his suit. The starter threw him a forerunner's bib, but the competition jury held him up and disqualified him under International Competition Rule 526.1 which requires a competitor to wear their starting number in competition. A few minutes after his scheduled start, he found that the bib had slipped all the way down his suit on walk down from the lift.
"I take responsibility, for sure. But it does no good to worry about spilled milk," said Demong, watching the remainder of the cross country race with his teammates in their hotel. "It's a little bit of maturity. We've been up, we've been down. We're prepared to take the bad with the good. And we're looking ahead to Saturday."
"It was an unfortunate turn of events," said Demong's teammate Todd Lodwick (Steamboat Springs, CO). "But it's also proven that our Team has moved on from getting down in situations like this as we might have in the past. We've grown tremendously over the past few years.
"A philosopher once said: 'You're going to learn more from your mistakes than your victories,'" he added. "All we can do now is to help pickup our teammate and move on. We are really looking forward to the individual event on the big hill and I know Billy is as well."
"It was an unusual accident and Billy is deeply disappointed that it has impacted the Team," said U.S. Ski Team Nordic Director John Farra. "The athletes met together as a Team and are moving forward. They will not look back and will not allow this to deter them from their efforts to display that they are the best nordic combined Team in the world. The next chance to show this is on Saturday when they will fight for medals on the large hill."
Lodwick has won two gold and Demong a bronze so far in the Championships. The final event is Saturday with a large hill jump and 10K cross country where both Lodwick and Demong will be among the contenders.
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