LAKE PLACID — Billy Demong grew up skiing in the Lake Placid area, where the Olympic influence is palpable.
But he didn’t see himself as a potential Olympian until about a year before it actually happened.
Sixteen years after his first Olympic appearance in Nagano, Japan, he’s about to compete in his fifth Winter Games.
FIRST NORDIC GOLD
Demong could have hung ‘em up after the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, walking away as the first American to win Olympic gold in Nordic combined.
But the sport still has a strong pull on him, and he stayed for the Sochi Games, helping groom the next generation and further his legacy along the way.
“It’s funny, I don’t think I ever put the Olympics as a true goal until I was about 16. That’s when I started to see that maybe I had an opportunity,” Demong said.
“And certainly when I was 21, after my second games, I never imagined that I’d still be here.
“It’s been an amazing journey to not only be involved in sport at this level for this amount of time but also to be part of a team that’s gone where U.S. Nordic skiers have never been before and produced results that we’ve never had.”
BUILDING HIS LEGACY
The U.S. Nordic Combined Team climbed the Olympic podium for the first time in 2010. Demong won gold in the large hill event, and Johnny Spillane took two silvers. The Americans also claimed silver in the team competition.
Demong, a Vermontville native, was chosen as the U.S. flag bearer for the closing ceremony.
Nordic combined athletes must master two disciplines: cross-country skiing and ski jumping.
While somewhat obscure in the United States, Demong said he and his teammates had always been pretty highly regarded internationally because of their success in the World Cup and the World Ski Championships.