Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bill Demong and Johnny Spillane - GOLD and SILVER


Nordic Combined Team USA continues its historic run at Vancouver.

NBC has to give these fantastic athletes their due now.

Demong wins Nordic combined gold

Spillane wins third silver medal; U.S. Nordic combi team wins four medals at Games

Billy Demong and Johnny Spillane have given the Americans a 1-2 finish in the Nordic combined large hill competition that was marred by bad weather.

Demong, of Vermontville, N.Y. ended America's golden goose egg in Nordic sports at the Winter Games by winning the 10-kilometer cross-country leg in 25 minutes, 32.9 seconds Thursday.

Spillane won his third silver of these games, finishing four seconds behind.

Bernhard Gruber of Austria, who had a 34-second head start after jumping the farthest off the large hill after a restart, took the bronze 10.8 seconds back.

Demong, of Vermontville, N.Y., started in sixth place and 46 seconds back, but quickly caught his teammate and Gruber for a three-man race the rest of the way.

They didn't have to worry about some of the best World Cup athletes catching them after worsening weather hampered the top jumpers on the large hill, relegating them too far back in the field to be a factor.

The cross-country race was run in much better weather, but the soft, sometimes choppy snow put a premium on the proper wax and ski setup. Unlike the team relay when Demong was done in by bad skis, he had the perfect combination to put the Americans atop the podium.

But the damage had been done to the sport's better athletes.

"It's a joke," Norway's Magnus Moan fumed of the final Nordic combined race at the Winter Games after managing to jump just 112.5 meters in a driving, wet snow and tail wind that pushed him down early.

That had him starting 2 minutes, 21 seconds behind Gruber, who jumped in much better conditions after a restart earlier in the morning.

Gruber, ranked 22nd in the World Cup standings, capitalized on a rogue headwind that helped him stay aloft for a top jump of 134 meters.

"It's like a lottery. Some guys got good conditions, some others terrible conditions," shrugged World Cup leader Jason Lamy Chappuis, of France, who won the gold in the normal hill 10K but started this race in 29th and finished in 18th.

Todd Lodwick, America's only five-time Olympic skier, did his part to help his teammates.

"Once I saw those two guys pull away, I jumped in front (of the chase group) and tried to slow down the pace," Lodwick said.

It worked perfectly.

By the halfway point, it was Spillane in front, Demong and Gruber within a second and the chase group 41 seconds behind. Demong was in the lead at the three-quarters turn with the chase pack now 49 seconds back.

Skiing in Demong's slipstream, Spillane slipped and fell going around a curve on the eighth kilometer, and Gruber moved briefly into second. But Spillane zipped past the Austrian on the final kilometer and quickly assured the U.S. of an unprecedented 1-2 finish.

He smiled as he watched Demong win gold, then cruised across the finish line with his third silver medal, thrusting both arms into the air as Demong had done.

Spillane's silver medal in the normal hill competition on Feb. 14 was the first U.S. Olympic medal in Nordic combined _ a ski jump followed by a brutal race of speed around a cross-country track. He grabbed another silver in the team relay Tuesday.

Quit whining and moaning, Magnus Moan of Norway!

The Americans have shown throughout the Games that they're great athletes, a great team.

Sure, the weather was a factor, but getting the gold and silver was no fluke. It's an accomplishment born of years of grueling hard work. It's truly historic and deserves recognition.

Congratulations, Bill Demong and Johnny Spillane!


Note to NBC: Show the full medal ceremony in PRIME TIME. Bob Costas should do an interview with the Nordic Combined team in the Vancouver studio in PRIME TIME.

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