Dave Shively: The next first

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I, for one, shed no tears watching Michael Strahan "stomp out" Tom Brady in Super Bowl XLI, and with it, the endless pursuit of perfection commentary.

I wasn't exactly cheering, either, seeing as I never played for the 1972 Miami Dolphins. The holders of timeless sports benchmarks don't want to let go of seemingly untouchable accomplishments they hang their helmets on, whether we're talking football or ski jumping helmets.

Bill Demong spent his Saturday blowing past the World Cup field, taking first at a 10K race in the Czech Republic. He finished the Nordic combined competition in sixth, helping put a solid hold on second place in the World Cup point standings and in the thick of finishing as the first American to earn the overall season title.

Well, sort of. The lone American title already belongs to Steamboat's Kerry Lynch. Lynch finished the 1982-83 season atop the world rankings. But it wasn't until the next season that "World Cup" became officially sanctioned under FIS. Lynch, who now flies under the radar as a volunteer coach with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, was once flying high and far as the brightest American hope for a Nordic combined medal.

He finished the '83 season on top of his game, rattling off a string of top finishes around the globe - second in Japan, fourth in Sweden, first in Finland and a first-place finish at the storied Holmenkollen jump in Norway. Lynch kept the momentum rolling into the first official World Cup season, tying an East German opponent for an early win and then returning to the podium, ready for the 1984 Olympic Winter Games.

But back when "the sport was not as sophisticated" and devoid of forejumpers, Lynch didn't get lucky on the snowy competition day in Sarajevo and had to plow snow on his in-run for a less-than-ideal jump - a 13th place finish, his worst all season.

"I had the second-fastest cross-country time, so if I could've jumped, I knew I had a shot at the podium - it was heartbreaking," Lynch said. "It was only one event - a 15K and two jumps off the K-90, no team event, no sprint. You have a bad day and it's four more years, and that's too long."

Lynch had surgery to relieve patella tendonitis that he never really bounced back from as the sport took off in new directions, moving from classic to skate skiing.

He threw himself into coaching. After the 1998 Nagano games, Lynch was coaching for the U.S. Team and wondering how to develop the young, teenage Demong and Johnny Spillane and transform them into world-beaters.

So, even with the "bittersweet" prospect of his title in the air, Lynch cannot help but root for these two skiers he helped learn "that seasoned-veteran foxiness" necessary to win at the highest level.

"For Billy, to get the job done would help boost the program," he said. "Only good can come out of it."

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