Olympics: U.S. Nordic Combined team wins silver
WHISTLER OLYMPIC PARK, BC (Feb.23) - It was a team event in more ways than one for the U.S. nordic combined squad today at Whistler Olympic Park. Not only did the foursome of Brett Camerota, Todd Lodwick, Billy Demong and Johnny Spillane deliver the U.S. its first medal (a silver) in Olympic team nordic combined, but the squad also gave the country its 26th medal at the Vancouver 2010 Games — breaking the record for the most-ever medals won by the U.S. at a Games not on home turf.
Skiing the last leg of the event, Billy Demong fought until the very end, finishing just 5.2 seconds behind Austria's Mario Stecher. (Austria was the defending gold medalist in the event.) Germany, whose Bjoern Kircheisen skied the final leg, placed third with a final time of 49.51.1 seconds, 19.5 seconds back.
The U.S. team had been sitting in second after the morning's jump portion, thanks to excellent jumps by Lodwick and Spillane and earn a 505.8 team score. They went into the four-man, 5 km cross country relay with a narrow, two-second penalty behind the Finnish team, which led in the jumps with a 507.0 score.
"It was sick. It was so awesome," said Lodwick of his jump. "To us it is not that big a deal, we just keep on doing what we are doing and the result will come. It has been a long road."
"It's a tough course, I want to be ahead,” said Lodwick of the cross country race. “I know I jumped good, I know Johnny [Spillane] is jumping good, I know Billy [Demong] is jumping good, let's throw it down."
Demong said the cross country race would be a dog fight, and he was right.
"So far, everyone on the team has done their part,” said Demong, who misplaced his bib at last season’s World Championships, a mistake that disqualified the team from competition. “I am just glad that I held up my part of the burden."
The Austrian team, led by Bernhard Gruber, landed third after the jumps and started 34 seconds behind the U.S. team.
"It was a good race," said Johnny Spillane. "Definitely hard conditions, with snow coming and going."
With Demong and Stecher fighting for and swapping the lead throughout the final leg, it came down to the final few strides in the stadium. "Maybe it didn't go quite our way at the end," said Spillane.
The Finnish team was feeling the same, only more so. Though they were sitting in first after the jumping portion, the squad of Janne Ryynaene, Jaakko Tallus, Hannu Manninen and Anssi Koivuranta finished seventh after the cross country race. "We were very confident about the cross country race and everybody fought for the medal and did their best," said Manninen, "but I think little things went wrong."
As for Demong, he said his skis didn't have quite the same glide when snow began falling at Whistler Olympic Park, and by the last moments of the race, his energy was kaput. "I gave it my all up the hill against Mario," he said. "I knew that would be my best chance to get away. And when we got up I was like, 'Oh, I hope he isn't there. Damn, he's still there.' And then it was pretty much over. All my energy was spent."
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