VAL DI FIEMME, Italy — Veteran Billy Demong (Vermontville, NY) anchored a solid full team performance to lead the United States to bronze in the nordic combined team event at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Val di Fiemme.
A strong showing on the jumps set the Americans up for their first ever medal in the team event at World Championships in which each of the four team athletes performed both on the jump and on the cross country track.
The Americans captured a silver in combined at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, but their previous-best at the world championships was fourth in 1995 at Thunder Bay.
Todd Lodwick led off with a strong 93.5-meter jump to set the pace and his teammates followed suit.
The tide turned in round three when Taylor Fletcher was forced down six start spots at the top, but took advantage of a wind-based restart to blast a 93.0 meter ride — well more than the 79.0 he had posted in his original start.
On the cross-country track, Taylor Fletcher led off and was successful at joining up with Norway to close gap on Japan and France.
Bryan Fletcher on second leg moved quickly past Japan and Norway then worked together with them to stay in contact with the leading Austrian team.
Lodwick turned in a gutsy, body-wrenching performance on the third leg to stay with the lead pack and position the USA for the anchor leg.
Demong quickly took command in the anchor leg moving from fifth to first on the initial climb. Norway’s Magnus Moan took the lead on the downhill nearing the stadium before France’s Jason Lamy Chappuis took command, battling Moan to a near photo finish with Demong close behind for bronze.
It was a fourth career World Championship medal for Demong and third for Lodwick, who is skiing in his ninth Worlds.
“It was great. Honestly, going into the last leg I had a goal to just ski a smart race and not lead it all. I ended up leading almost the whole thing,” Bill Demong related.
“In the end I was a little unsure if the other guys were really going to be fresh, and coming down the last hill I’m like, ‘Don’t look back, you don’t want to know. Just keep chasing Magnus and Jason.’
“So I think it was really a relief to come within five meters of the finish line and just glance and say, ‘Okay, yea. We’ve got this.’”
“We all put down a solid effort on the racecourse — we hung tough. Bill came through on the end with a good sprint to take third,” Taylor Fletcher said.
“We came in this knowing that we were going to be close for the cross country, knowing the jumping had put ourselves in position. We don’t come to this competition to lose so we did our best to fight for the podium and fight for the victory.
“I give it up to our staff, teammates, coaches and, of course, the mustache was the deciding factor in this. We had a lot of fun with it and it brought our team together.”
“It was a good day; especially Taylor on the jumping hill did an amazing job from going down six gates and then having difficult conditions. Then to go back up, do it again and have the jump like he had; to do that for the team was awesome,” Coach Dave Jarrett added. “Todd has been a little bit sick and maybe not in the best shape and he also rallied really hard in the cross country.”