Demong races to fourth ... again

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— Another race, another close finish for American Bill Demong on the Nordic combined World Cup tour.

"Billy's in a zone. Both of his jumps were good. He's skiing fast and he's right there with the leaders," American coach Lasse Ottesen said in a U.S. Ski Team press release. "A podium's a podium and it's what we want : and losing it in a photo finish is frustration, but Billy's fighting for the victory every time."

Demong combined jumps of 126.5 and 116.5 meters to place 11th after the jumping portion of the event, which was won by Bernhard Gruber of Austria. Gruber set the mark in both rounds of jumping by flying 133.5 meters.

But Gruber was unable to hold his 42-second advantage along the 15-kilometer cross-country course. Teammate Felix Gottwald made up more than 2 minutes on the cross-country course en route to the 19th victory of his career. Finland's Hannu Manninen, 2:36 back after the jumping, finished second and German Sebastian Haseney just edged Demong for the final podium spot in the race.

"It was quite a sprint at the end," Ottesen said. "Felix just got away and Manninen and Haseney and Billy were just tenths apart. Haseney beat Billy by maybe five centimeters."

It was the second straight race that Demong's chance at a podium came down to a photo and the second time that he finished fourth.

The news also was good for American Brett Camerota, who earned his first World Cup point with a 30th place finish. The news wasn't as good for hometown favorite Johnny Spillane, who had to deal with dead air in the first round and failed to make the cut for a second.

"It was both fun and not-so-fun today. Certainly very good for Billy and good for Brett (Camerota), too - his first World Cup point is important," Ottesen said. "But Johnny Spillane was one of five or six guys who got hit with some dead wind in the first round. Normally, that can come with the sport, but with these new rules that only the top 35 move forward for a second jump, it's vital that all the athletes have as close to the same conditions."

The Nordic combined skiers will have a short break before returning to action in Val di Fiemme, Italy Jan. 13 to 14. There is no doubt that Spillane, who won his world championship gold medal in Val di Fiemme, will be hoping for better wind and better results.

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