LIBEREC, CZECH REPUBLIC - Just days after taking the blame for a team disqualification at the world championships, Bill Demong made up for his blunder by winning gold in the Nordic Combined large-hill event.
Demong took the podium at an award's ceremony Sunday and was welcomed with thunderous applause.
At the team competition Feb. 26, Demong lost his bib before his jump, prompting officials to disqualify the Americans from the team event. Before his jump Feb. 28, Demong held his bib up to television cameras, smiling.
"I have to give credit to my teammates," Demong told reporters after the event. "They did a really good job of keeping my spirits up and telling me to forget about it."
Demong's mother, Helen - the choral director at Saranac Lake High School, said in an e-mail after the competition, she and her son went out on the town in Liberec - the Czech Republic city where the world championships were held.
"What a celebration we had," she wrote.
According to Helen, thousands of people attended the award ceremony at the medal plaza. The celebration featured fireworks, and the winning athletes were given crystal Czech trophies.
"I got incredibly emotional," said Helen. "We all know how hard Bill has worked to reach this goal. He was as happy as I've ever seen him and I was as proud as I've ever been of him."
"The Star Spangled Banner never sounded sweeter," she added. "Billy is a world champion. I can hardly believe it."
Demong started the cross-country portion of the competition in the eighth position, based on his performance on the large-hill in the morning. He went on to erase a 52-second deficit and edge out Germany's Bjoern Kicheisen and France's Jason Lamy-Chappuis, who finished second and third, respectively.
The Vermontville native blazed across the 10-kilometer course, recording a time of 23 minutes and 36.6 seconds and giving the Americans their third title in four events.
Demong told the press he felt good prior to Saturday's competition, and his victory represents countless hours of training and dedication.
"It was a great way to end the world championships," he said. "I knew it would have to be a really, really good race for me to have a chance."
The win caps off a breakout season for both Demong and the Nordic Combined team. Demong has been featured in numerous publications, most notably in ESPN magazine, which tends to focus heavily on the more popular American sports, like football, baseball and basketball. Demong can also be seen on television in a commercial for Alka Seltzer Cold and Sinus, a major sponsor for U.S. ski teams.