WHISTLER, BC (Feb. 26) – The Olympic gold medal nordic combined skier Billy Demong (Vermontville, NY) received Thursday evening in Whistler wasn't his only gold of the day. A few hours later, in front of over a hundred fans, family and friends at Spyder U.S. Ski Team House in Whistler, the Olympic champion proposed to longtime girlfriend Katie Koczynski. She said yes!
Demong had been carrying a ring with him for several months, looking for that perfect time to pop the question. Just before heading out to Thursday's final nordic combined event, he threw it in his bag, just in case.
Olympic champion Billy Demong uses his gold medal day to propose marriage publicly to his girlfriend Katie Koczynski at the Spyder U.S. Ski Team House in Whistler, BC during a celebration for the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team during the Olympics in Whistler. (U.S. Ski Team/Katie Perhai)
He knew there would be no better time than the night of an Olympic gold medal. But it took some last-minute encouragement from teammate and three-time Olympic silver medalist Johnny Spillane to seal the deal.
"A little part of me really wanted to win to make it that much better, but I don't think it was really going through my mind too much," Demong said on the set of NBC's The Today Show Friday morning.
After Spillane took to the stage to lead the crowd in Happy Birthday for his wife Hilary, Demong looked to his fellow World Champion for advice. Spillane gave him the thumbs up and Demong grabbed the microphone, shocking the crowd and putting a huge smile on Katie's face.
Bending down on one knee, Demong asked Kocyznski to be his wife as the crowd cheered wildly.
The ring didn't go on smoothly, though. An old gymnastics injury on her ring finger made it tough, but teammate Todd Lodwick stepped in to help squeeze the ring onto her finger.
The celebration continued Friday morning on The Today Show at Grouse Mountain. During an interview with Today's Meredith Vieira, Al Roker and Ann Curry, Billy called his girlfriend onto the set as Al presented her with a bouquet of red roses.
Koczynski is also an athlete, having competed as a skeleton racer on the World Cup for several years before retiring in 2005.
There was no immediate word on a wedding date for the newly-engaged couple. "After all of this, there’s going to be no worrying about tablecloth colors and place settings," said Koczynski. Right now they're content to celebrate Demong's gold and silver medals as he looks forward to the remainder of the World Cup season.
It was quite an evening overall for Demong. Just prior to the engagement presentation he received a call that he had been selected by his fellow Olympians as the U.S. flag bearer for closing ceremonies.
As a footnote to a storybook day, Demong – who is also an outstanding road cyclist - was also honored with a Tweet from Lance Armstrong: Congrats to @billydemong on the gold! Now, back on the bike!