Steamboat Springs It's true that Bill Demong isn't a native of Steamboat Springs, but that hasn't stopped this city from celebrating the Vermontville, N.Y., athlete's performance at the 2009 FIS Nordic World Championships.
"I've always felt at home in Steamboat Springs," Demong said this week. "I've always considered it home."
There is no question that his family and friends back in New York, and his newest friends in Park City, Utah, also are celebrating his gold-medal finish in the individual Gundersen on the HS134 and his bronze in the individual Gundersen on the HS100. But today, Demong will be honored by the city in which he spent six years honing his skills. Demong came to Steamboat in 1997 to train with Tom Steitz, who was head coach of the U.S. Nordic combined team at the time. He lived full time in our mountain town until 2003, when he left for Park City to be closer to ski team coaches. He spent more than a year living with Dave and Lorraine MacDonald in Steamboat Springs, and he attended Colorado Mountain College one winter.
Demong won a silver medal at the World Championship in Sapporro, Japan, in 2007. This year, he added bronze and gold medals to his collection. The finishes highlight a season in which Demong collected 12 podium finishes and five World Cup victories. He was third in the overall standings.
"These World Championships were completely different," Demong said. "Being on the podium with Todd (Lodwick) was an incredible experience. Todd was on fire. It was impressive."
Also impressive is that Lodwick and Demong shared the podium in the individual Gundersen event. It was the first time two Americans had been on the podium at the same time at the World Championships.
The importance of the Americans' World Championship performance is not lost on Demong. The Americans had won four World Championship medals (two in Nordic combined) in the 85 years preceding this year's competition in Liberec, Czech Republic. Thanks to Lodwick and Demong, the U.S. Nordic combined team matched that number in 2009. Ski jumper Lindsey Van and cross-country skier Kikkan Randall added two more, bringing the American team's total to six - a new record for our country.
"That's amazing," Demong said. "We had high expectations headed into the event, but I don't think anybody expected us to do that well."
The championship results also have Demong excited about the upcoming year and the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
"Our team is a unit," Demong said. "We don't have a single leader. Now we seem to feed off of each other's success."
Todd Wilson, Nordic program director at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and a longtime friend of Demong's, said Demong has come into his own the past several seasons. Wilson expects more good things from him.
"Billy has always had a tremendous amount of physical talent," Wilson said. "The really cool thing is that mentally he's matured, and now he understands what he can do with all that talent."
Demong said he is excited as the team begins to prepare for the 2010 season and the Olympic games. He feels like the team can build on what happened at the World Championships, and he is optimistic that a fourth skier will come forward for the team event.
"We have a lot of young talent on this team," Demong said. "I know that they will come through next season, and they represent the future of our team."
But Wilson said that Demong and Lodwick have struck a chord in the Nordic combined community that reaches beyond medals and results.
"Their stories are like lessons for the younger skiers at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club," Wilson said. "The have displayed the type of patience it takes to become champions, and it's an example to our skiers to keep working hard and good things will come their way."